2019 came to a perfect ending for thousands of people with low-level marijuana convictions in Illinois.
On the last day of the year, and a day before a new law makes weed legal for anyone 21 and over in the state, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker issued a whopping 11,017 pardons.
The new law is also meant to help out people who couldn’t get jobs, housing, or financial help for college because of their drug convictions.
“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,” he added.
State officials told CNN that around 116,000 convictions – all for possession of 30 grams of weed or less – are eligible to receive a pardon.
More than 700,000 residents of Illinois currently have marijuana-related offenses on their criminal records, many of whom could get relief from the new law, according to state officials and the Marijuana Policy Project.
The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which takes effect on January 1, 2020, gives people the possibility to automatically receive clemency for convictions up to 30 grams of cannabis.
Anyone convicted with larger amounts of up to half a kilo can petition a court to have their charge dropped.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois welcomed Pritzker’s decision in a statement Tuesday, and applauded him for “acting to address the history of unnecessary and discriminatory enforcement of marijuana laws in Illinois.”
“The governor’s pardons of Illinoisans with convictions for marijuana possession makes the new year brighter for thousands,” said Ben Ruddell, criminal justice policy director for the ACLU of Illinois.
“We know that black Illinois residents are far more likely to be arrested and convicted for marijuana possession than whites. This is a good step forward as we begin the legal sales of recreational marijuana.”
“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,” Toi Hutchinson, senior adviser to the governor for cannabis control, said in a statement.
“Those who were unfairly targeted by discriminatory drug laws can finally get ahead and build a new future for themselves and their families.”
Illinois is the 11th US state to fully legalize marijuana while 34 in total have legalized medical marijuana.
What a fantastic way to start into the new year.