Network of legal professionals helps Illinois residents turn over a ‘New Leaf’ after cannabis convictions

A network of legal professionals is helping people criminalized by cannabis clear their records.
Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 5:27 PM CDT
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COLLINSVILLE, Ill. (KMOV) – A network of legal professionals is helping people criminalized by cannabis clear their records.

Illinois has committed $1.6 million a year to fund the service, called “New Leaf,” but organizers said many who need the service don’t know about it. Advocates said that years after Illinois legalized recreational marijuana, many people have no clue how to expunge their records.

Expungements started in Illinois in June 2019. Since then, Illinois State Police report more than 510,000 people have had their convictions and arrests tossed out.

The state told News 4 that more than 800,000 Illinois residents have completed the expungement process, with more than half out of Cook County. Another 26,000 had their records expunged by governor’s pardon.

“We are not getting a lot of pushback in the Metro East from judges or state’s attorneys, said Daniel Kuehnert, senior staff attorney at Land of Lincoln Legal Aid in Alton. “Even ones that might be a bit more skeptical of sealing offenses, they understand the change in the cannabis law.

“New Leaf” has provided legal services in 81 of the 102 counties in Illinois. There are as many as 85 cases registered in Madison County. In St. Clair and Randolph counties, between six and 14 cases have been registered. Cook County has seen more than 100 registrations.

Kuehnert told News 4 the network can help far more people.

“We want to do everything we can for clients and help them with cannabis and non-cannabis records,” he said.

In Missouri, data shows that more than 22,000 convictions no longer exist since expungements began last December. Advocates in Missouri said the Department of Senior Services has not worked out an external platform to check expungement status or eligibility. So far nearly 6,000 records have been expunged and counting in the state.

Click here for more information regarding “New Leaf.”