Illinois’ governor granted more than 11,000 pardons for low-level marijuana convictions.
The announcement comes the many predicted expungements anticipated under the state’s new marijuana legalization law, per the AP.
Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker announced the pardons at a church on Chicago’s South Side, stating that the pardons will make it easier for them to get jobs, housing, and financial aid for college.
Illinois is the 11th state to legalize marijuana for people 21 or older.
“We are ending the 50-year-long war on cannabis,” Pritzker said in a statement. “We are restoring rights to many tens of thousands of Illinoisans. We are bringing regulation and safety to a previously unsafe and illegal market. And we are creating a new industry that puts equity at its very core.”
“We know that Black Illinois residents are far more likely to be arrested and convicted for marijuana possession than whites,” said Ben Ruddell, criminal justice policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. “This is a good step forward as we begin the legal sales of recreational marijuana.”
As the state welcomed recreational marijuana sale and use on Wednesday, over 40 dispensaries have been issued licenses to sell the one prohibited drug.
“The 11,017 pardons that Gov. Pritzker is granting today are thousands of lives forever changed — and hundreds of thousands more will be changed in the coming months,” said Toi Hutchinson, a former state senator who now is an adviser to Pritzker on marijuana policy. “Those who were unfairly targeted by discriminatory drug laws can finally get ahead and build a new future for themselves and their families.”