Kim Foxx, the state attorney for Cook County, Illinois, is taking a look at low-level cannabis convictions and preparing to vacate them. The motion, filed by Foxx in December, will help several thousand low-level offenders to move on with their lives.
Low-level marijuana convictions are those involving an offender in possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana. These offenses are classified as Class 4 felonies, and will result in automatic expunction. The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which takes effect on Jan. 1, allows individuals to legally possess up to 30 grams of marijuana.
The efforts set in motion by Foxx involve Chief Judge Timothy Evans and Code for America, a nonprofit organization that works to positively impact the lives of Americans. According to Code for America, to expunge a record is to “remove a significant barrier to work, education, and housing for people,” which undoubtedly gives low-level offenders a second chance.
Many of these offenders are Black and Hispanics hailing from communities where a second chance is desperately needed. In a Business Insider report from 2018, author Alyssa Pagano illustrates that the connection between minorities and marijuana can be traced as far back as the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, which gave rise to more frequent arrests for marijuana possession among Blacks and Hispanics than of their white counterparts. The trend continues in the present.
“The ACLU reported that in 2010, black people were four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people, even though both groups consume marijuana at about the same rate,” Pagano notes.
Foxx’s efforts place Chicago in good company with other major cities, such as San Francisco and Seattle, which have recently expunged low-level marijuana convictions.
“Foxx’s appearance at a courthouse where the vast majority of criminal defendants are black or Hispanic underlines the intention of the law’s architects and Foxx herself: to help minority communities that have been hit hardest by what Foxx called the ‘failed war on drugs,’” AP news reported.
This could be a step in the right direction toward more equal opportunity in the cannabis industry for the Black community. Time will only tell if we start to see more Blacks gain access to grower and distributor licenses, which are credentials we have previously been denied access to legally.