New Leaf Illinois
With support from the State of Illinois, IEJF has launched the New Leaf Illinois network, an alliance of 20 organizations throughout the state offering free legal and advisory services to help people clear their cannabis convictions. Funding for the initiative was included in the 2019 Illinois cannabis legalization law.
Background on Cannabis Expungement in Illinois
On July 25, 2019, the Cannabis Regulation & Tax Act (CRTA) was signed into law under Public Act 101-0027. In addition to decriminalizing possession of cannabis, the Act has been heralded as the most equity-centric legislation in the country in part because it creates processes to address past cannabis convictions through expungement.
Individuals arrested or convicted of misdemeanor or Class 4 felony violations of the Cannabis Control Act are eligible to have those records expunged through one of three processes. What process a person qualifies for depends on both the type and disposition (or result) of the charge. See below for the categories:
1) Automatic Expungement of Law Enforcement Records
- Local law enforcement agencies and the Illinois State Police have up to five years to review and automatically expunge police records for misdemeanor and Class 4 felony charges under 30 grams that did not lead to conviction.
- Category 1 does not expunge court records, requiring a person to still file a petition to remove those records from public view.
2) Automatic Process for Governor Pardon & Expungement
- The Illinois State Police will identify all misdemeanor and Class 4 felony convictions for under 30 grams that do NOT have other arrests for violent offenses in the case or include a penalty enhancement.
- The list is vetted by the Prisoner Review Board and presented to the Governor with a confidential, non –binding recommendation on whether to grant a pardon authorizing expungement.
- If a pardon is granted, the Attorney General’s Office is responsible for filing petitions to expunge in appropriate counties.
3) Petition Process to Vacate & Expunge Through the Courts
- All misdemeanor and Class 4 felony convictions are eligible through filing a petition to vacate and expunge in the court of conviction.
- Category 3 includes convictions that are disqualified from the automatic pardon process on the amount or associated charges.
- Provides funding for civil legal aid representation for qualifying individuals and allows State’s Attorney’s Offices to also file these motions on behalf of individuals.
The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) was appropriated funding to develop a cannabis expungement grants program to distribute to nonprofit civil legal aid providers throughout Illinois.
IEJF established the New Leaf Illinois program and made grants to legal aid organizations to help Illinois citizens navigate the process of expungement. In setting up this program, we identified three main objectives:
Launch a statewide network featuring a scalable access starting point for any person to find out if they are eligible for cannabis expungement relief and receive a direct referral to the appropriate legal service provider.
Ensure people throughout Illinois have access to legal representation, prioritizing jurisdictions with the highest rates of cannabis arrests and convictions based on data from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA).
Collect outcome data on the number of people accessing justice throughout the State, providing a system-wide view on the impact of funding and legislation.