Cook County State’s Attorney takes first steps to clear cannabis convictions

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CHICAGO — Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx appeared before Chief Judge Timothy Evans to personally submit the first petitions to toss out low-level pot convictions.

Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown personally kept the record while Governor JB Pritzker observed from the jury box.

One by one, Foxx read the names of some of the 1012 people whose pot convictions her office moved to expunge.

“These are the cases of possession of less than 30 grams or less and where there was no violent offense involved,” Foxx said. “As a prosecutor who’s previously prosecuted these cases we must own our role in the harm that we have caused and particularly to communities of color.”

On January 1, recreational cannabis becomes legal in Illinois. The cannabis law provides for wiping out some convictions and arrests. It’s an effort to help those targeted by the war on drugs.

Statewide, hundreds of thousands carry the weight of a marijuana conviction.

“A criminal record carries with it more than sigma,” Pritzker said. “It prevents people from being considered for job opportunities, for getting a loan or a mortgage, from renting an apartment, from applying for financial aid from college from getting a professionally license and more. … We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of the unfair and the damage that it’s visited upon so many families but we can govern our state with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past.”

The convictions vacated Wednesday will be removed from individuals’ records and the Clerk of the Circuit Court will mail out notices. Foxx’s office is starting with misdemeanors and will work its way up to felonies after consulting with police.  Work like this is now underway across Illinois.

“This is what criminal justice reform and better smarter drug policy looks like,” Pritzker senior advisor cannabis Toi Hutchison said.

It was a campaign promise for Foxx and comes as she seeks reelection.

On a campaign note, Foxx did not want to take questions about Bob Fioretti’s challenge to her petition signatures.

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