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Petition Lets Prosecutors Bypass Pot Bust Bureaucracy

Prosecutors in Illinois are getting an end-around around a seemingly endless paper shuffle as they move to absolve low-level pot offenders in the era of legal weed. A provision for motions to vacate and expunge records contained in the guiding legislation for legalized recreational use of the drug lets state’s attorneys skip steps in clearing some of the estimated 116,000 eligible cannabis convictions involving possession of less than 30 grams of the drug. The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act that Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last year sets that amount as the legal limit residents are allowed to carry under rules that went into effect on January 1st.

The motion means that those seeking to have their records expunged need not go through a process that includes agency approvals, a gubernatorial pardon and a judicial sign-off. The new regime allows state’s attorneys to petition circuit court judges for orders that, once signed, prevent law enforcement and the public at large from seeing details of past pot busts. So far, nearly 3,000 records have been expunged in Cook and McHenry counties using the so-called petition bypass. Prtizker granted more than 11,000 pardons across the state the day the act went into effect.