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Legal aid group New Leaf wants to expunge cannabis convictions

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April 20, or 4/20, is a day that many people associate with smoking weed, which has been legal in Illinois since January 2020. This year, lawyers across Illinois are using the “holiday” to help people convicted of cannabis crimes get a fresh start.

New Leaf Illinois is a state-funded network of lawyers that provides criminal record relief to people convicted of cannabis crimes prior to its legalization. They provide free legal services and criminal records relief to those who qualify.

Attorney Laura Loyd works at New Leaf partner organization Prairie State Legal Services, specializing in criminal record expungement. She said that if these crimes remain on a person's record, they are more likely to fall below and stay below the poverty line.

“It can make it harder to get employment, harder to get stable housing that you need, which ultimately also impacts your general financial stability,” said Loyd.

Loyd said expunging these old records can help people live their lives without being haunted by past convictions. However, it does not mean a person gets off scot-free. A person must have served any required sentences prior to expungement.

New Leaf’s legal partners aim to provide holistic criminal records relief. Not only will they assist with expungement of cannabis-related charges, they will also work to expunge any other charges that qualify so that a person can re-enter society with a clean slate.

“It allows them to move forward in life and contribute to the world and to society, without having to worry about something that they did in their past–that they have already paid their dues for–will come back,” Loyd said of her clients.

While some records will be expunged automatically over time, anyone with a cannabis record is encouraged to reach out to New Leaf Illinois.

Prairie State Legal Services will be present in Bloomington twice over the next week for anyone interested in beginning the expungement process, at the following locations and times:

  • Red and Blue Grocery, 1002 W. Market St., on Wednesday, April 20, from 12-3 p.m.
  • Express Soft Cloth Car Wash & Laundromat, 708 W. Market St., on Sunday, April 24, from 12-3 p.m.
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