Cannabis Expungement Movement

Since cannabis first became legal for recreational use in Colorado and Washington in 2012, there has been a wave of other states moving to legalize cannabis products. This movement has brought many advantages with it, including opportunities for business ventures and access to beneficial products for consumers. With all the benefits the wave of legalization brings, it also has brought questions. Perhaps the most important of these questions; what happens to all the people who have legal charges related to then-offenses that are now completely legal? 

Countless citizens have had their lives severely impacted by cannabis-related legal issues for a reason that, in many states, is no longer valid. If you, or anyone you know is one of those people, it is important to know your status and legal rights. We have done our best to collect information and provide resources pertaining to this issue. Please read more and look into it yourself as this is an issue of paramount importance. 

What is Expungement?

Before continuing, it is important to define expungement. Expungement is a legal process through which the state seals, erases or destroys offenses on a criminal record, whether they be arrests or convictions. 

Expungement differs from a pardon in that it is not “forgiveness,” but an erasure of the offense. The state may decide to pursue expungement for a multitude of reasons, including dealing with juvenile offenses and, in the case of cannabis-related offenses, rectifying legal action for an offense that is no longer illegal. 


The impact of cannabis-related legal policies is immeasurable. Countless Americans have had their lives severely impacted by offenses that no longer apply. According to the Last Prisoner Project, an organization formed in “2019 out of the belief that no one should remain incarcerated or suffering the collateral consequences of offenses that are now legal,” 15.7 million people have been arrested for marijuana-related offenses over the last two decades. The issues discussed by the Last Prisoner Project are deep and varied, and we cannot hope to fully consider the impact of the matter in question. Please visit the Last Prisoner Project site to learn more about this movement. 

While this issue has caused untold damage to lives, the economy, and society at large, there are now options for many of those 15.7 million people in states where cannabis has been legalized. We think people deserve a second chance, especially for offenses no longer considered illegal. Continue reading to learn more about options for expungement in the state of Illinois.

Expungement in Illinois

Most states offer some programs for expungement of cannabis-related arrests or convictions, but these solutions vary by several factors including what state you’re in, whether the record is an arrest or conviction, what type offense is on the record, and how long ago the arrest or conviction occurred. We will do our best to summarize each of these factors for the state of Illinois, but please refer to the Illinois OSAD (Office of the State Appellate Defender) site for complete information. All of the following information is directly sourced from this site. 

Arrests for “Minor Cannabis Offenses”

Arrests for “minor cannabis offenses” are often subject to automatic expungement from records. There are some conditions to this automatic expungement which are as follows. A record will be automatically expunged if it is considered a “minor offense.” This designation is satisfied if the arrest was for: 

  • possession or dealing, 
  • 30 grams or less, 
  • Before June 25, 2019. 

According to OSAD “It must be at least one year since the arrest. There must not have been any charges filed in court. Or, the charges must have been dismissed or vacated, or you were acquitted.” 

Also, you must not have: 

  • Given weed to someone under 18 who was at least three years younger than you, or
  • Been arrested for a violent crime in the same case as the weed charges. 

If all of this is true, the police will automatically remove your law enforcement record based on when you were arrested: 

  • Arrested 1/1/2013 or later: Record expunged by 1/1/2021. 
  • Arrested between 1/1/2000 and 12/31/2012: Record expunged by 1/1/2023.
  • Arrested before 1/1/2000: Record expunged by 1/1/2025. 

Convictions for “Minor Cannabis Offenses”

If you, or the person who is going through proceedings, was convicted of the aforementioned arrest, you can still have your record expunged, but it is a longer and more intricate process. 

According to OSAD, the process looks something like this. “The record will go to the Prisoner Review Board (PRB). The PRB can then recommend that the Governor grant a “pardon authorizing expungement.” If the Governor does this, the Attorney General will file a petition in the county where you were convicted to have the record expunged. If granted, the Circuit Clerk must then notify you and give you a copy of the order expunging your record. You must tell the circuit clerk if your address has changed since your case happened.” 

Possession or Dealing Convictions

If the record in question is a possession or dealing conviction, it is still possible for your record to be expunged. This is available for convictions of dealing less than 30 grams, or possessing 500 grams or less. The date of the conviction matters in these cases. To see if the conviction is eligible for expungement, refer to the following table.

Eligibility to file Motion to Vacate and Expunge

(Source: Illinois OSAD)

In order to expunge your record in this category, you must file a Motion to Vacate and Expunge in court. There are two ways for this to happen: 

  • The State’s Attorney may do this for you, or 
  • You can do it yourself, using the forms on the OSAD website. 

Forms of Expungement

As referred to, some convictions and arrests require the filling out and filing of forms. You can do this on your own, or with legal representation. You can find further information on these forms at the Illinois OSAD website

Legal Representation Resources

Navigating the legal system can be confusing, intimidating and all around difficult. Luckily, there are resources for anyone who needs assistance and representation. New Leaf Illinois is a statewide and state-funded initiative that is a collective of non-profit organizations across the

state who provide free legal representation and resources for cannabis-related arrests and convictions. 

If you or anyone you know is looking for help regarding your cannabis-related arrest or conviction, please reach out to New Leaf Illinois here or look into other similar options. If you would like to deal with this on your own, you can also use Illinois Legal Aid Online for resources and information. 

Further Education and Sources

While we hope this blog helps, this is an intricate subject which may require further reading. We would like to direct you to our four main sources which are linked below. 

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