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Illinois Gov Signs Bill Closing Marijuana Expungement Loophole

Courts in Illinois will no longer be able to deny requests to seal or expunge cannabis-related criminal records on the basis of a positive drug test.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed legislation into law amending Illinois’ Criminal Identification Act so that the courts “shall not deny a petition for expungement or sealing because the petitioner has submitted a drug test taken within 30 days before the filing of the petition for expungement or sealing that indicates a positive test for the presence of cannabis within the petitioner’s body.”

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D) and Rep. Carol Ammons (D), advanced swiftly through the legislature before landing on the governor’s desk.

“People looking to correct their criminal record should not be stopped from meaningfully participating in society because of a positive drug test for cannabis,” Collins said via a press statement. “We have to stop treating its use as grounds for dismissal with respect to jobs and petition-filing.”

“People deserve second chances, and it is important that we afford this opportunity to those whose circumstances may have led them to crime,” she continues. “This legislation is especially meaningful for our communities of color, who face disproportionate disparities in the criminal justice system.”

The new law will take effect on January 1, 2023, and Ammons described it as an “exciting step forward in closing the existing loopholes that still criminalize Illinoisans for using cannabis years after its legalization.”

Gov. Pritzker has been a driving force behind the reform of Illinois’ marijuana laws. His administration spearheaded efforts to legalize recreational cannabis and has overseen more than 500,000 expungements and pardons for marijuana-related offenses since the plant was legalized in 2020.

That said, marijuana reform advocates are disheartened by the failure of similar legislation, sponsored by Sen. Robert Peters (D) and Rep. Bob Morgan (D), that would have afforded greater protections for workers who lawfully use cannabis outside of work from employers’ discrimination on the basis of a positive marijuana test.

Outside the legislature, the legal cannabis market in Illinois continues to go from strength to strength with sales topping $132 million in April. This marks the second highest monthly revenues since legal sales in Illinois launched on January 1, 2020.

Illinois recorded more than $1.4 billion in recreational cannabis sales in 2021 which amounts to $100 million more in tax revenues than from alcohol sales.

A large portion of these tax revenues are being spent on social equity initiatives in the state. Under Illinois’ marijuana legalization law, the state established its Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program that receives 25 percent of cannabis tax revenues which are then distributed in the form of grants for programs and services that provide legal aid, youth development, financial support, and community reintegration for disadvantaged communities.

Illinois also established a separate fund – New Leaf – with cannabis sales tax dollars to support individuals with cannabis-related criminal records navigate the expungement process.

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