State’s attorney assesses legal recreational pot bill

Local News

URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — The Champaign County State’s Attorney says she isn’t on board with part of the governor’s plan to legalize recreational marijuana.

This comes after the latest push from the capitol. The bill was filed this week with Governor Pritzker’s backing. It includes expunging the records of about 800,000 people.

Recreational marijuana could be legalized in Illinois as early as New Year’s Day. Part of the bill includes expunging records of people with minor violations. There are limitations to qualify for this.

Rietz says, “We’re talking about either straight possession of up to 500 grams or possession with intent to deliver up to 30 grams of cannabis.”  

Only offenders with misdemeanor or class four felonies involving marijuana can get records expunged. 
Under the current proposal, the offense has to stand alone and can’t be connected to other crimes.

Rietz gave examples saying, “If there were other charges that arose out of the arrest, like a gun possession charge, possession of other drugs, some sort of theft or domestic battery.” 

From a legal perspective in general, there are parts of the proposal Rietz says she doesn’t have a problem with, but there are some issues she has with the expungement provision as it stands right now. 

Generally, the expungement process has to be initiated by the person with the record. This proposal outlines an automatic expungement. Rietz says this means police would have to provide manpower and money to go through the records to decide who qualifies and to destroy those records. 

“It seems like a significant allocation of resources for something I’m not really sure has a great benefit.” 

Expungement under this bill is not something she fully supports.

Rietz says, “I struggle with the concept that somebody who committed an offense and was convicted of that offense, without having to even request it, gets that offense stricken off their record.”

There aren’t many people in Champaign County who would be able to take advantage of this kind of expungement.

Rietz says, “In our local county jail, very few if any are in custody on straight possession of cannabis charges. We have regularly maybe 5-10 at the most who are in custody on cannabis-related charges.” 

If this bill passes, Illinois would become the eleventh state in the country to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults. 

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