Illinois lawmaker hopes to erase more marijuana arrest records by removing drug test requirement

SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) — An Illinois Democrat in the House of Commons hopes to help more people get past cannabis charges expunged from their records. Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) says some still face a hurdle due to the drug test required before debarment.

Recreational marijuana has been legal in Illinois since January 1, 2020. One of the main elements of the legalization law was the automatic deletion of nearly 500,000 marijuana arrest records. Although some people are still waiting to have a clean slate today.

Ammons says people who are not eligible for delisting at this time may be rejected due to the presence of marijuana in their system. She hopes remove cannabis testing of the delisting requirement to help expedite the process. Ammons told the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee that many also end up paying between $75 and $100 extra to take the drug test, while people across the state can legally use cannabis.

“It’s not going the way this legislature intended,” said Mark Mitchell, a lawyer with Teamwork Englewood. “It doesn’t happen in four months. It takes 18 to 19 months for this to happen normally.

Ammons is working with Carbrini Green Legal Aid on an amendment to specifically note that a motion to strike cannot be denied based on a positive drug test. It would also prevent the courts from refusing to disbar someone who tested positive.

“We just want to bring this bill in line with what is happening with billions of dollars in the state of Illinois,” Ammons said. “Cannabis should not be a barrier to delisting if it is not a barrier to its sale.”

Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) said he thinks the bill’s current wording could be interpreted to increase the number of offenses eligible for disbarment. Windhorst argues the bill could expand eligibility for those guilty of drug-related criminal offenses, including drug distribution.

“I understand the intent as presented, but I think the bill goes much further than that,” Windhorst said. “And I obviously couldn’t bear the erasure of all those records.”

Still, Ammons said his proposal would only deal with expunging cannabis records. She pointed out that other drugs will not be added to the language with future amendments to this bill.

“In the future, I may come back to this committee to say that there is a disparity in drug testing. Like, if I commit murder, you don’t have to take a drug test before you’re eligible for expungement or sealing,” Ammons said. “And think it’s disproportionate and discriminatory, but I’ll work on that later. What I’m working on today is strictly cannabis.

House Bill 4392 passed the House Judiciary Penal Committee on Thursday in a partisan vote of 11 to 8. However, Ammons plans to hold the bill at second reading and bring it back to the committee when the amendments are ready.

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