Barickman balks at expunging criminal records for drug dealers

Capitol Connection

ILLINOIS (WCIA) — A Central Illinois lawmaker who supports legalizing recreational cannabis for adult use says a portion of the plan currently supported by Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker could be a dealbreaker.

“Republicans and Democrats alike have looked at the Governor’s proposal and have identified key aspects of it which the public is going to find incredibly controversial,” Senator Jason Barickman said on Capitol Connection.

“There’s an expungement process that contemplates expunging the record of offenses that remain illegal even after Pritzker’s legalization plan would be put in place,” Barickman said. “That’s an incredible proposition. It’s far removed from what most Illinoisans will view as acceptable.”

The latest proposal from Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) would allow adults to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana, but would also forgive the criminal records of anyone who was convicted for possession of up to 500 grams. Barickman called the plan a “wild proposition.” Steans said they were “not trying to be inconsistent,” and pointed out that dispensaries would be allowed to stock more than 500 grams in supply. 

Earlier in the week, House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, described what he saw as a “very controversial” hurdle in the legislature.

“The key on that issue is how far do you go in terms of expungement,” Madigan said. “If you’re talking about some teenager who was doing drugs and was only guilty of possession, that is one thing. If you were talking about people who were actually in the business, they were dealers, and you want to expunge those records, that’s a different case. I’m not sure how [Represenative Kelly Cassidy and Senator Steans] treat that in the proposed language, but that would be very important in terms of finding 60 people in the House to vote for the bill.”

Barickman challenged Pritzker to use his executive powers to forgive drug dealers and leave the legalization process to the legislature.

“The expungement process proposes that indivudals who are felons would have some of these really controversial offenses expunged. I suggested to the governor that he has the power to do this on his own. Governor Ryan used the broad clemency powers that governors have to do something similar to this years ago.”

The governor’s office said “negotiations and feedback on the proposal are welcome,” but did not answer directly whether or not the governor might consider granting clemency to drug dealers if the statehouse cannot reach a consensus on the issue.

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