New Leaf Illinois announces grants for 18 organizations helping clear cannabis records

SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) — The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation is awarding more than $1.4 million in grants to 18 organizations across the state to help clear cannabis records. The delisting was a key factor when Illinois legalized recreational cannabis products in 2019.

New Leaf Illinois says the funding will help legal aid groups represent people in court. Community outreach groups in areas hardest hit by the failed drug war also plan to use this funding to educate people about the delisting process.

“This year’s grant installments will provide resources to organizations that are making a real difference in communities across the state,” said Beth Johnson, project manager for New Leaf Illinois. “I’m excited to see the continued progress our grantee organizations will make in the pursuit of widespread cannabis equity.”

The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation created New Leaf Illinois to respond to previous state drug laws that disproportionately impacted communities of color.

Executive Director Leslie Corbett said 80% of the people they have helped have far more charges than cannabis violations.

“It’s a bigger problem than cannabis,” Corbett said. “But cannabis really is a gateway drug and, unfortunately, a gateway to a criminal record.”

She hopes New Leaf Illinois can expand further to help treat “the whole individual” and have a greater impact on disadvantaged communities.

The cannabis expungement process was delayed while the courts were closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, leaders said the process is going much more smoothly now.

“In a way it could be a deterrent for people because they’re kind of thinking, ‘What’s the rush? I’m just going to wait in line. But, honestly, it’s the rush because that if you’re not online, it will take even longer,” Corbett said.

The 18 organizations working under New Leaf Illinois have already helped 1,700 people with legal advice and completing disbarment forms this year. Corbett explained that New Leaf Illinois has also represented and expunged more than 300 cannabis cases for people with multiple criminal records over the past two years.

“It really moves the ball for the forgotten communities and the forgotten people who have really paid the price. We know cannabis is big business now and a lot of people are taking advantage of it,” Corbett said. “Some communities have certainly not benefited in the same way. Having it enshrined in Illinois law, I think, makes all the difference.

Illinois recorded $445.3 million in tax revenue from recreational cannabis sales in fiscal year 2022. This is a 50% increase in total tax reported on marijuana sales to adult use in fiscal year 2021. Cannabis sales exceeded $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2022.

“Illinois has done more to bring justice and fairness to the forefront of this industry than any other state in the nation and has worked to ensure that communities impacted by the war on drugs have the opportunity to participate” , Governor JB Pritzker said. “The $1.5 billion in adult-use cannabis sales in Illinois translates into significant tax revenue, with a portion of every dollar spent reinvested in communities that have suffered for decades.”

New Leaf Illinois is currently a five-year pilot program funded by budget appropriations for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. The state also awarded $113.5 million in grants under the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew program. This R3 program uses taxes from cannabis sales to invest in underserved communities affected by gun violence, unemployment, imprisonment, child poverty and the war on drugs.

“These much-needed resources for communities impacted by the drug war are exactly why policymakers who understand the pain and trauma experienced by communities are vital,” said Rep. Jehan Gordon Booth (D-Peoria) . “This is no accident. These directed resources were the result of intentional political decisions to begin righting the wrongs. slice of the pie.”

If you or someone you know needs help with cannabis withdrawal, go to newleafillinois.org or call 855-963-9532. The radiation program is free and available in English and Spanish.

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