Cook County has plan to clear minor marijuana convictions

CHICAGO — Part of Illinois' marijuana legalization law includes clearing minor marijuana convictions.

Under the plan, the Cook County State's Attorney's office is working with the nonprofit Code for America, to expunge those offenses in a faster way.

This is for offenders of Class A and B misdemeanor marijuana offenses and Class 4 felony marijuana offenses, of amounts under 30 grams, as long as a year has passed since the offense happened.

State officials said removing these barriers can clear a path to jobs, housing and education.

"What the research has found is that people who are eligible for this type of relief, only 3-5% of them work to get those convictions vacated," said Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx.

Cook County is the first county outside of California to take part in Code for America’s Clear My Record program. The nonprofit is able to provide their services at little, or no cost.

"Why do individuals have to take all those steps," said Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka. "Why are we jamming up the courts... when really what we could do is access the data and change the records in compliance with the law that has been passed."

"With the volume that we are anticipating, tens of thousands, that would be onerous of itself," said Foxx. "But the ability to have a court call that would allow us to go in on unspecified days and run for these cases in partnership with our justice partners."

Proponents of this process point to expensive and needless incarceration of nonviolent offenders caught with small amounts of marijuana over the decades. And studies show inner city neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

Officials estimate roughly 770,000 pot convictions are eligible for expungement in the state of Illinois.

Once a record is wiped clean, the Cook County clerk’s office will mail a notice to the individual’s last known address.

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