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Foxx vows to expunge all misdemeanor pot convictions, pushes full legalization

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx came out in support of marijuana legalization and laid out a plan to wipe clean all minor pot convictions during a speech Thursday to the City Club of Chicago.

During the speech — which aimed to highlight the state’s attorney’s office’s accomplishments under Foxx — she noted that her office would “pursue the expungement of all misdemeanor marijuana convictions,” a proposal that was met with rousing applause.

Foxx did not immediately provide details on how many people would be impacted by her widespread expungement plan, but explained in her speech that just limiting prosecutions of current cases doesn’t go far enough.

“At the [state’s attorney’s office], we have moved away from prosecuting most possession cases — but that does little to help the person who can’t get a job or apartment due to a marijuana conviction,” Foxx wrote. “The research and evidence indisputably show the housing and employment barriers associated with a marijuana conviction.”

People with misdemeanor pot convictions will not have to petition individually to have them expunged from their records, according to Kiera Ellis, a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office.

Foxx’s announcement comes a few weeks after pro-pot Gov. J.B. Pritzker was sworn into office. Pritzker is backing an upcoming bill that’s being drafted by state Sen. Heather Steans and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, Chicago Democrats who introduced similar legislation in 2017 that failed to gain much traction in Springfield.

While their new plan is still developing, some elements have started to come into focus: Minor pot convictions would be expunged; people with misdemeanor pot convictions would now be allowed to work in cannabis facilities; additional cannabis licensing categories would be created to break down barriers to entry in the industry; and cannabis firms would be encouraged to set diversity hiring goals and required to lay out plans for reinvesting in the communities they serve.

On Thursday, Steans lauded Foxx’s decision to support the push to end Illinois’ prohibition on pot, crediting her “stellar record of fighting for criminal justice reform in Cook County.”

“Expunging records of people convicted of non-violent, cannabis-related misdemeanors is an excellent first step and will aid in removing obstacles to employment and housing,” Steans said. “[Foxx’s] support is a vote of confidence, and I look forward to working with her as we craft the best piece of legislation possible.”

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Steans, Cassidy and other Illinois Democrats will host a town hall meeting on cannabis legalization at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave.