Illinois Capital

Daniel Schwen

An Illinois state Senate bill that would expunge low-level cannabis crimes has received new support, according to a WQAD 8 report.

Illinois Senate Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (D) has officially taken up the bill and many hope her status will carry it forward. Lightford needs to get the bill passed by the state Senate and onto Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk before the start of the next session, or the process will start all over.

Illinois decriminalized the possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis in 2016. The proposal in question will allow people with convictions meeting that criteria to clear them from their record entirely, with permission from a judge.

“As the conversation about legalizing recreational marijuana continues to gain traction, it would be irresponsible of legislators to overlook the damage over-criminalization has caused. This measure is about helping nonviolent offenders rehabilitate and have a better chance of getting a job.” — State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), via WQAD

The measure is opposed by the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association.

The bill was first sponsored by state Rep. La Shawn Ford. A report from the American Civil Liberties Union from 2013 shows that African-Americans in Illinois are seven times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than other communities.

“We need fairness and equity in the process,” Ford said. “This is just the first step in ensuring that this ‘war on drugs’ that we’ve been fighting that has disproportionately affected black and brown people in the city of Chicago, is fair.”

Rep. Ford is currently running to be Chicago‘s mayor. Should the bill become law, Ford said he will petition every state attorney in Illinois to begin the process of expunging all low-level cannabis charges.

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