The new year has brought many new laws in states all across the country. Nationally, the legal age to buy tobacco or nicotine products is now 21. Three states passed red flag laws, which allows a judge to remove a person's firearm if they are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others (affecting many domestic abuse cases). California has a new law that is meant to protect gig economy workers like Uber and Lyft drivers. And Illinois legalized recreational marijuana. Not only did Illinois join the growing number of states that allow recreational marijuana, but the governor of Illinois also issued over 11,000 pardons for low-level marijuana convictions on New Year's Eve.
Pardons Affect Many
On December 31, 2019, Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the pardons at a south-side Chicago church, saying, “We are ending the 50-year-long war on cannabis.” The expungements were a part of the new state law legalizing marijuana. Lawmakers who wrote the policy said they wanted to repair some of the damage that had been done by law enforcement over the years as they fought the sale and possession of marijuana. Most marijuana convictions are of minorities.
Ben Ruddell, a criminal-justice policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said, “We know that black Illinois residents are far more likely to be arrested and convicted for marijuana possession than whites. This is a good step forward as we begin the legal sales of recreational marijuana.”
Expunging the records of individuals who were convicted of low-level misdemeanors will mean those persons will have a better chance at finding jobs, obtain housing, and receive financial aid for college. In total, 11, 017 convictions were pardoned on New Year's Eve, but state officials estimate that there are 150,000 convictions that involved possessing 30 grams or less of marijuana that might also be eligible for expungement.
There are some downsides to being “first” when it comes to passing a new law. When Washington legalized marijuana back in 2012, expunging marijuana convictions was not part of the original bill. Other states that followed legalizing marijuana recognized that not including expungements was grossly unfair, so they included it as part of their legislation.
Washington lawmakers passed legislation in spring 2019 to begin expunging low-level convictions, and Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill, which went into effect on July 27, 2019.
Drug Defense Attorney
If you have been convicted of a low-level marijuana offense in Washington and want to clear your name and record, contact the Law Offices of Steve Karimi for help in doing so. Steve Karimi can also help if you've been convicted of more serious drug-related crimes. Call the Law Offices of Steve Karimi at 206-621-8777 or fill out an online contact form today.
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