Bill to expunge marijuana convictions goes to Illinois House floor

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Illinois is one step closer to allowing people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana or paraphernalia to expunge their criminal convictions.

Before 2016, those caught in possession of fewer than 10 grams of marijuana could face jail time. Such offenses are now civil infractions rather than criminal ones thanks to a change in state law.

With the 2016 change allowing civil penalties instead of criminal charges for low level pot offenses, law enforcement agencies that issued a citation are supposed to expunge such citations on or before Jan. 1 and July 1 of each year.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford’s House Bill 2367 would allow those with criminal convictions before the law change in 2016 to ask a judge to have the conviction expunged.

“And law enforcement would have a right to object to it and I think that’s fair,” Ford, D-Chicago, said. “You have to go before a judge, the judge will look at it, and ultimately grant a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ ”

Ford’s measure says a petitioner may ask the circuit court to expunge records of a conviction or plea of guilty for an offense from before July 29, 2016, if three years or more have passed since the petitioner has completed their sentence.

Ford’s measure passed out of committee Tuesday with two of the three Republicans voting in opposition.

State Rep. Steven Reick, R-Woodstock, said he sides with the Sheriff’s Association, which wants to keep the existing expungement processes.

“I’m willing to give it more time,” Reick said.

State Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee, supported the measure. She said it makes sense.

“If it’s a petty offense, you should be able to have it off your record,” Parkhurst said.

Ford said his bill allowing previous criminal convictions to be expunged will help people better themselves.

“If we can find ways in Illinois to put more people in the tax bracket, that’s what we should be doing and not having people stuck with felonies on their record that probably shouldn’t have been a felony in the first place,” Ford said.

Parkhurst agreed.

“It seemed that that would be an appropriate thing to do so that people can get jobs and raise their family,” Parkhurst said.

In California, San Francisco prosecutors are in the process of throwing out thousands of pot-related convictions dating back to 1975 with no action necessary from those who were convicted.