PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — 420 is a cannabis culture slang for marijuana consumption and on April 20, it’s a day people take part in cannabis-oriented celebrations.
The legalization of marijuana recreationally was signed into law in Illinois in June 2019 and took effect on Jan. 1, 2020, which also cleared some criminal records for those charged with cannabis-related crimes.
For the last three years, since the Illinois law took effect, New Leaf Illinois has been granting people clean slates. It’s a statewide network of nonprofit organizations that are committed to equal justice for everybody who was previously arrested or convicted for cannabis use, production, and sale.
“There are about 18 different organizations that makeup New Leaf. So, what we’re trying to do is help people basically statewide seeking expungement,” said Peter Honigmann, the supervising attorney for CARPLS Legal Aid Hotline.
Those organizations include:
- Cannabis Equity Illinois Coalition
- Law Project: Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
- Equip for Equality
- Farmworker and Landscaper Advocacy Project
- The Antmound Foundation
- Illinois Legal Aid Online
- Greater Chicago Legal Clinic
- Land of Lincoln Legal Aid
- Legal Aid Chicago
- Metropolitan Family Services
- Moran Center for Youth Advocacy
- Prairie State Legal Services
- Westside Justice Center
Despite it being three years after marijuana has been legalized in Illinois, only a fraction of residents entitled to have cannabis arrests and charges expunged from public records have done so.
“Although there are a lot of records that have been expunged, there are a lot more that still have to be expunged, because frankly, in the state of Illinois, we have 102 separate counties that operate in 102 separate ways,” said Illinois State Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth.
There’s a program in Illinois called R3 that Gordon-Booth mentioned. It’s a grant program in Illinois communities that have been harmed by violence, excessive incarceration, and economic disinvestment. One of the tears under R3 is civil legal aid, which helps cover the cost of legal expenses for those looking to clear marijuana offenses from their record.
“We have helped thousands of people get their fresh start in this expungement and sealing process. It’s a process, and it’s not overnight, but it’s one that is certainly worth it. I have seen people literally change their entire lives because of having that barrier removed,” said Gordon-Booth.
New Leaf Illinois helps people connect with legal help to undertake their cases, but they don’t just help with cannabis-related offenses. They will also help get other minor offenses expunged or sealed.
“We’re really trying to help clear their records completely and not just focus in on a couple of things,” said Honigmann.
Gordon-Booth also said she is working on a policy called Clean Slate, which will create a more efficient process for those looking to have records expunged or sealed.
Utilizing these resources, Honigmann said, will make the process of job and house hunting, as well as furthering education, a lot easier.