More than 71,000 Illinoisans eligible for cannabis record expungement if they can navigate through a complicated court process. New Leaf Illinois can help.
CHICAGO (November 19, 2020) – The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF), today announced the launch of New Leaf Illinois, an alliance of 20 organizations to provide free legal and advisory services to help people wipe clean their marijuana convictions. The new resource was made possible by specific funding requirements of the 2019 Illinois cannabis legalization law.
“Communities of color have borne the impact of the discriminatory enforcement of the four-decade long war on drugs,” said Gray Mateo-Harris, IEJF board member and partner at Fox Rothschild LLP. “While people of all races illegally grew, smoked and sold marijuana, it was Black and brown people who were much more likely to be arrested and incarcerated for it.”
“At the heart of our cannabis legalization effort was the concept of a three-legged stool—representing restoration, reinvestment and inclusion,” said Illinois Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-14), one of the lead sponsors of the 2019 cannabis legalization legislation. “Expungement for those with previous cannabis records is a key element of this new path forward. And today, the New Leaf Illinois program is helping to embody these principles by working to restore communities who’ve been hit hardest by the war on drugs, reinvest in individuals who continue to be unfairly punished by past convictions, and include everyone, especially those who have been historically marginalized and shut out.”
New Leaf Illinois will help people determine their eligibility for relief through an online portal www.newleafillinois.org. Legal aid organizations within the New Leaf Illinois Network will provide free services to income-level qualifying individuals in every region in Illinois.
In 2019, Illinois legalized cannabis possession and consumption. One component of legalization was to recognize and rectify the damage caused by the decades-long war on drugs and how it disproportionately impacted communities of color and the economically disenfranchised. As part of this policy change, the state created a pathway for individuals previously arrested and convicted of cannabis violations to have their records expunged. Expungement refers to the clearing or removal of person’s arrest, charges or criminal convictions from public view.
Most of the estimated 778,000 cannabis convictions in Illinois are eligible for automatic expungement by law enforcement and the pardon process. The state has outlined a timeline for automatic expungement.
But there are an estimated 71,000 criminal records on file that could qualify for expungement that will not be done automatically. Typically, this is for convictions involving possession of more than 30 grams but less than 500 grams of cannabis.
A criminal record can impact one’s financial well-being, job opportunities, educational prospects and other areas of life.
The New LEAF Illinois members are:
- Prairie State Legal Services
- Land of Lincoln Legal Aid
- Greater Chicago Legal Clinic
- Legal Aid Chicago
- Moran Center for Youth Advocacy
- Metropolitan Family Services/Legal Aid Society
- Catholic Charities Legal Assistance
- Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
- Illinois Legal Aid Online
- Equip for Equality
- Farmworker Landscaper Advocacy Project
- First Defense Legal Aid
- Instituto del Progreso Latino
- Alliance of Local Service Organizations
- Administer Justice
- Cabrini Green Legal Aid
- Westside Justice Center
- The Antmound Foundation
- Working Family Solidarity
- Coordinated Advice & Referral Program for Legal Services (CARPLS)
Check out the Press Conference video below or watch on Facebook.
About Illinois Equal Justice
The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF), a 501 c 3 tax exempt organization, distributes funding appropriated by the State to support not-for-profit legal aid programs. The funding for the IEJF, which comes through an appropriation through the Office of the Attorney General, directly helps families in crisis, victims of domestic violence and seniors facing abuse and financial exploitation. The IEJF supports innovative, cost-effective legal aid programs that empower clients to resolve legal issues and regain control of their lives. These programs offer information, guidance, advice, representation and tools to help clients understand the legal system and their rights within it.