CHICAGO — Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx says she supports legalizing marijuana in Illinois and that her office will help expunge misdemeanor marijuana convictions.
“I want to say publicly to all of you that I am in support of the legalization of marijuana,” Foxx said. “Here in that state’s attorney’s office we have already begun to move away from prosecuting most cases of marijuana possession, but that does very little to help those who can’t get a job or who have been denied housing because of a previous marijuana conviction.”
During a speech at the City Club of Chicago Thursday, the county’s top prosecutor said getting misdemeanor marijuana convictions vacated would help thousands of people who have lost out on jobs or housing because criminal records.
“Therefore, I am announcing to you today that our next step is to pursue the expungement of all misdemeanor marijuana convictions here in Cook County,” Foxx said.
Governor J.B. Pritzker has pledged to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Some estimates show that could yield $1 billion in annual tax revenue.
In a statement, the governor’s spokesperson said “State's Attorney Foxx took an important step forward today to address the disparities in marijuana related prosecution.”
Reverend Gregory Livingston of the Coalition for a New Chicago said Foxx should be focusing on bad policing which is what he says results in the racial disparities found in arrests for marijuana.
“I think she’s really looking in the wrong direction. I hope that she has the steel to prosecute bad policing. That’s where she needs to be and not wet nursing the Pritzker family’s marijuana agenda,” he said. “She’s walking on a slippery slope here.”
Foxx said any legalization of recreational pot should be done with public safety in mind.
“We have to make sure that young people are not consuming it, so most of the concerns that I’ve heard is that as legalization is done, that public safety is a priority,” she said.
Marijuana laws remain on the books, so Foxx said police in Cook County would still be within their rights to stop, search or arrest people on the suspicion of possession or use.
But misdemeanor cases will not be prosecuted by her office.