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Illinois starts new year by expunging nearly 500,000 marijuana arrest records

Illinois starts new year by expunging nearly 500,000 marijuana arrest records
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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said in an announcement hours before the start of the new year that his state had expunged nearly 500,000 marijuana-related convictions.

The move follows Pritzker signing legislation in 2019 legalizing recreational marijuana use in the state starting in 2020. The expansive legislation also paved the way for 770,000 state residents to be eligible for expunging marijuana-related offenses.

Pritzker initially estimated it would take four years to start getting records expunged, but announced on Thursday that nearly 500,000 had already been tossed going into 2021.

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"We reached this milestone one year into what will be an ongoing effort to correct historic wrongdoings fueled by the war on drugs," he tweeted. 

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"We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of the damage in communities of color, who have disproportionately shouldered this burden. But we can govern with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past — and the decency to set a better path forward."

Illinois joins more than a dozen states in recent years that have legalized marijuana recreationally and sought to address convictions related to the drug.

California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington have each enacted legislation to explicitly expunge or seal the records of those convicted of low-level marijuana crimes.