US (IL): House Dems’ cannabis working group will engage industry, equity advocates

 Illinois House Democrats announced the formation of a cannabis working group Thursday that will aim to steer the burgeoning industry’s expansion in a business-friendly way while still satisfying the equity goals of the landmark 2019 legalization law. 

The group is led by Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, who has sponsored numerous cannabis-related bills and is an outspoken advocate for racial equity.

The working group’s main priority, according to Ford, is to make sure individuals who have invested in the newly-created industry are successful. A part of that is to address the disproportionate impact the war on drugs had on communities of color, particularly when it comes to cannabis-related arrests. 

According to the ACLU, Black people in Illinois were 7.5 times more likely than white people to be arrested for cannabis-related offenses prior to the state’s decriminalization of the drug in 2016.

The same law that legalized recreational cannabis use in 2019 also made individuals previously charged with minor cannabis offenses eligible to have their records expunged. At the end of 2020, Gov. Pritzker announced 492,129 cannabis-related convictions had been expunged, and 9,219 low-level cannabis convictions had been pardoned.


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