CHICAGO – At the end of May 2019, Illinois became the 11th state, along with D.C., to legalize recreational use of marijuana.  The new law permits adults to buy and possess up to 30 grams of weed for personal use, allows current medical dispensaries to apply for additional dispensary permits for recreational sales, and rolls back state drug convictions on marijuana possession of 30 grams or less.  Notably, however, Illinois becomes the first state to create its recreational marijuana industry through legislation rather than ballot initiative.  The first paragraph of the new law comprehensively outlines the purpose of the legal change:

In the interest of allowing law enforcement to focus on violent and property crimes, generating revenue for education, substance abuse prevention and treatment, freeing public resources to invest in communities and other public purposes, and individual freedom, the General Assembly finds and declares that the use of cannabis should be legal for persons 21 years of age or older and should be taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.

Illinois’s governor, J.B. Pritzker, campaigned on the de-criminalization issue, stating that marijuana criminalization disproportionately impacts minority communities and harms the state overall.  The bill would take full effect on January 1, 2020, with proponents hailing a huge possible tax haul from legalization.  While the legislation appears sweeping, smoking in public places remains illegal, employers would still be able to implement zero tolerance policies, localities would still be able to zone out marijuana businesses, and police still maintain enforcement duties under current DUI standards.

A big difference with the Illinois codification of legal marijuana is the deliberate intention to undo the criminalization of people under the past legal structure.  In a broad sweep, once the law takes effect on January 1, 2020, the Governor will pardon and the Illinois Attorney General’s office will file to expunge any convictions or pending cases for possession of 30 grams or less of pot.  Additionally, for possession of 30 to 500 grams, an individual or a state’s attorney may petition to vacate or expunge.  This conscious effort is a direct response to what is seen by many as a disproportionate effect of the “war on drugs.”  The law could clear as many as 770,000 records of low-level marijuana crimes.

With the possibility of possession between 30 and 500 grams being expunged, criminal law attorneys in Illinois may have their hands full with calls from individuals seeking expungement for possession.  Smokeball law practice management software delivers comprehensive criminal law matter types, including for expungement actions!  Smokeball is the top legal software for criminal lawyers.  To learn more about Smokeball’s expungement matter type and how to get your firm ready for an influx of expungement cases, visit smokeball.com and request a customized demonstration today.