One of the biggest developments in 2020 for the cannabis community will be the start of legal cannabis commerce in Illinois on New Year’s Day. Legalization in the Midwestern state will reverberate across America’s Heartland as neighboring states will see the Land of Lincoln usher in more freedom, jobs, and revenue and will want to follow suit. Even more important than the direct economic benefits of cannabis sales are the rights and freedoms that more people will enjoy as those saddled with old convictions will have the ability to expunge those past offenses off of their records. Thankfully, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker kicked off the New Year right by pardoning 11,017 people with minor cannabis offenses, as ABC 7 Chicago reported:
“Tomorrow when adult-use cannabis becomes legal, pay attention to the fact that we are beginning to accomplish four very important things: We are ending the 50-year long war on cannabis. 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,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Every state that has legalized cannabis has seen high demand and long lines in its earliest weeks, and to be sure, our state will too. But unlike other states, in Illinois, we purposely built a system where the market has room to grow, so that entrepreneurs, including especially those from the communities devastated by the war on drugs, will have real opportunities in this industry.”
The Cannabis Regulations and Tax Act provides for ways to expunge convictions and arrest records for minor cannabis offenses, with more than 700,000 records that will be eligible.
Governor Pritzker acknowledged that marijuana convictions have disproportionately impacted black and brown people and stressed that this new industry emphasizes equality saying it will bring safe oversight and an end to a decades’ long war. Pritzker made the announcement at Trinity United Church of Christ Tuesday.
Hopefully, Governor Pritzker’s pardons will influence other governors to do the same across the nation. Too many people have had their lives disrupted or ruined by nonviolent cannabis offenses, hindering their ability to find jobs, get an education, or maintain custody of their children. It’s time to move forward with a sensible public policy that truly treats the cannabis community equally and fairly from sea to shining sea. Here’s to 2020 and let’s all resolve to continue the fight for freedom and liberty for all.