With marijuana being increasingly legalised in the US, decriminalising the substance and overturning convictions based on previous bans is expected to follow. The decriminalisation ordinance will take effect from 2020 and when it does, it will overturn thousands of convictions under previous laws. According to a report, Cook County, Illinois, will do this using a new algorithm. Cook County is the country's second most populated county and houses one of the largest cities, Chicago.
State Attorney Kim Foxx stated in a press briefing that her government aims to "right the wrongs of the past." It will collaborate with Code for America to reverse the excesses of the "War on Drugs."
"It is prosecutors who were part of the war on drugs, we were part of a larger ecosystem that believed that in the interest of public safety, that these were convictions that were necessary to gain. In the benefit of hindsight and looking at the impact of the war on drugs, it is also prosecutors who have to be at the table to ensure that we are righting the wrongs of the past," Foxx stated at a press briefing.
The Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act will be enforced at the start of 2020 and according to it, no person over the age of 21 will be penalised for possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana. For people who were convicted of carrying 500 grams or less, records will be expunged. The charges will no longer figure in background checks or law enforcement records.
The non-profit Code for America will use its "Clear My Record" technology to automate the process so that it can be conducted at the earliest. Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Executive Director, Code for America, stated that the process will be done for free. It will also not need any action on the part of the convicted person.
"Code for America's program will sift through state and county data to identify which records are eligible for the expungement, then complete paperwork for prosecutors to submit to judges, who can formally throw out the convictions... The county hopes to begin the automated process as soon as possible, even ahead of Jan. 1, when marijuana legalisation takes effect. Foxx wants the automatic expungements to apply to as many convictions as far back as possible, though she acknowledged the process may be difficult for older, nondigitised records," she stated.
However, if marijuana charges were combined with other charges, the convicted persons will not get a respite.