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Nearly 500,000 Non-Felony Cannabis Arrest Records Expunged in Illinois

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As required by Illinois legislation that went into effect in 2019, the state’s governor issued pardons on low-level convictions and nearly 500,000 non-felony arrest records for cannabis-related crimes on Dec. 31, 2020.

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act ordered at least 47,000 marijuana-related arrest records from 2013-2019 be expunged by Jan. 1, 2021. Additionally, the state has pardoned over 20,000 convictions under the same law.

Governor J.B. Pritzker’s office announced 9,219 low-level marijuana conviction records were expunged by the Illinois State Police (ISP) on New Year’s Eve 2020. Moreover, the 492,192 cannabis arrest records wiped out means the ISP has completed the statutory deadline ahead of its deadline of Jan. 1, 2025.

In addition to the state level expungements, DuPage, Kane, Knox, McHenry, McLean, Peoria, Rock Island, Will, and Winnebago counties have completed their local level requirements; the other 192 counties continue the process.

Senior cannabis control advisor to Gov. Pritzker, Toi Hutchinson, expressed pride in the progress the state has “made towards undoing the harms dealt by the failed war on drugs.” She added:

We are one year into what will be an ongoing effort to correct historic wrongdoings. The administration remains committed to working with legislators to address any challenges to equity and on building an industry that re-invests in our state’s communities.

Hutchinson further boasted that none of the other 11 states that have legalized recreational cannabis had taken steps to remove low-level and non-violent marijuana arrest records.

cannabisWhile this is true, she misstated how many states currently allow adult usage for recreational purposes. As of Nov. 5, 2020, there are 16 states with legal marijuana for adults. Illinois has a greater commitment to erasing the harmful records of the state’s previous offenders.

Other states with record-clearing cannabis laws include California, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, and Oregon. Legislators have introduced similar acts to be addressed in this year’s sessions in Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania.

In 2012, when Colorado first legalized marijuana, the state’s lawmakers passed a bill requiring “courts, upon petition, to seal the records of misdemeanor cannabis possession or use offenses that would not have been crimes committed,” explains Michael Hartman, a research analyst for the National Conference of State Legislators’ Criminal Justice System.

On Dec. 3, 2020, the House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 (MORE Act of 2019) — 228 to 164. This is the first time either chamber of Congress addressed decriminalizing cannabis. The bill was forwarded to the Senate but has not garnered any movement as yet.

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 made cannabis usage and sales illegal — later overturned due to its lack of constitutionality. Former-president Richard M. Nixon coined the term War on Drugs in 1971. It was replaced with the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970s, which increased the Federal government’s pursuit of marijuana-related drug offenses.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware

Sources:

HuffPost: Illinois Expunges Nearly 500,000 Cannabis Arrest Records; by Ryan Grenoble
Chicago Sun-Times: Pritzker marks New Year’s Eve by expunging nearly half a million marijuana arrest records, pardoning thousands more; by Manny Ramos
NCSL: States Move to Clear Records of People With Previous Pot Convictions; by Michael Hartman

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Cannabis Urlaub’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Willpower Studios’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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House Votes to Impeach Donald Trump for Inciting the Jan. 6th Insurrection

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In a historic move, the House of Representatives will hold President Trump accountable for inciting the insurrection on January 6th using the power of impeachment — for the second time during his four-year term. On Jan. 13, they voted to impeach Donald Trump.

ImpeachDuring three hours of debate, many Republicans and Democrats spoke from their fear. Several GOP House members spoke about the anguish of speaking out against the president; they are afraid of attacks on their families.

When the verbal vote was called, it was not clear which group was louder. As a result, they moved to electronic voting.

At 4:36 p.m. ET., there were 10 Republicans who voted in favor of impeaching the president who joined 232 Democrats — five House members did not cast votes; one Democrat and four Republicans.

McConnell sent a letter to the Senators stating he would not be calling them back before January 19. Therefore, Trump will remain in office no matter what the outcome is today. If Trump is convicted, it will be after he leaves office.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware

Sources:

CNN: Live
CNN: READ: The House of Representatives’ article of impeachment against Donald Trump
The New York Times: House poised to impeach Trump for second time: ‘Incitement of insurrection;’ by Rebecca Shabad

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Michael Vandon’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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Insurgents Plan Riots Ahead of January 20th Despite Trump Admitting Defeat

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As the fallout from President Trump’s participation in the insurgency that devastated the nation on January 6th mounts, he responds by trying truthfulness. Unfortunately, even in admitting his failed re-election attempt, his rancor was still evident and did nothing to quell the insurgents who plan to disrupt the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.

During the riots, the president reached out to encourage the rioters to stop. He used passive language, calling them great patriots, said they were very special, and continued to tell them the election was lost — stolen. The messages were posted on various social media platforms that promptly suspended his accounts.

TrumpAfter a 12-hour Twitter suspension, his tone was different. Using a video format, he talked about the new administration was going to begin on January 20th, and his focus was on having a smooth transition. Trump told them to be calm. He complained there were no further legal avenues available to contest the election results.

Then he turned his attention to the insurgency. The president admonished those who engaged in violence and destruction at the Capitol, saying they do not represent America. He promised that whoever broke the law would be prosecuted.

At this point, Trump could concede and tell the insurgents to stand down, but whatever he says would not likely change the minds of his most ardent and militant followers. These domestic terrorists are determined to see Trump’s election-loss overturned and upend Democracy.

Chris Krebs, former U.S. Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency suggests Trump should change the script:

[Trump] has to declare that this was a free and fair election. He still has time to do what’s right.

The problem with this kind of thinking assumes his rabid followers will hear Trump saying this on media they trust. Since social platforms are making it harder for the home-grown terrorists, this might be difficult. Also, right-leaning news outlets will likely tweak their reports so that he sounds coerced into making a statement.

Moreover, Trump has referred to liberals and progressives as Communists, Marxists, and Socialists, among other derogatory falsehoods. His followers choose to believe him without understanding the primary three listed. They have bought into his lies and hatefully spread them for years.

The president doubled-down with the Communist references during the rally leading up to the masses marching down Pennsylvania Avenue and attacking the United States Capitol on January 6th.

A call to all so-called patriots to meet in Washington D.C. on January 19 was posted the day after the failed but bloody coup attempt. A commenter on the pro-Trump online forum thedonald.win wrote:

Trump WILL  be sworn in for a second term on January 20th!! We must not let the communists win. Even if we have to burn DC to the ground. Tomorrow we take back DC and take back our country!

NPR reports another home-grown terrorist wrote on Parler:

Many of Us will return on January 19, 2021, carrying Our weapons, in support of Our nation’s resolve, towhich [sic] the world will never forget!!! We will come in numbers that no standing army or police agency can match.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware

Sources:

The Wrap: Trump Says MAGA Rioters Have ‘Defiled the Seat of American Democracy;’ by J. Clara Chan
Politico: ‘Coward’: MAGA internet turns on Trump; by Tina Nguyen
NPR: As Inauguration Nears, Concern Of More Violence Grows; by Matthew S. Schwartz

Images Courtesy of Blink O’fanaye’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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Lessons From an Insurrection

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The world watched the historic insurrection that occurred this week, Jan. 6, 2021, on Capitol Hill. On the heels of President Trump’s encouragement, a disgruntled and rabid mob of his followers descended on the Capitol and stormed the building.

Not since the War of 1812 had the U.S. seen a sight like this. Millions watched in horror for hours as elected officials and their staff ran in terror, and rioters roamed the building unencumbered by law enforcement.

Five people, including a Capitol Hill police officer, eventually lost their lives. How was this allowed? Where was the overwhelming law enforcement response? Who will be held accountable?

These issues will continue to be investigated in the coming weeks and months. However, there is a larger question at hand.

What do these events say about America?

InsurrectionThe tragic dichotomy of our nation was on full display this week. The day before this riot, the officers who shot Jacob Blake were cleared of any charges. Georgia witnessed a historic special election that gave Democrats control of the US Senate. These stories are also critical to consider as they convey the irony of the American experience.

The Georgia election was groundbreaking as it represented tremendous individual and collective progress. It also gave President-Elect Biden the majority he needs to ensure that his legislative agenda will not be thwarted. The consequences of the victories of Senators Warnock and Ossoff may be felt for generations.

Yet, in the same week, American symbols of injustice and white privilege were on full display. Despite a video recording of the incident, none of the police officers involved in shooting Jacob Blake in the back multiple times will face charges. Though he was unarmed and a victim of excessive force, there will be no punishment.

The next day, rioters broke into the U.S. Capitol, destroyed property, and terrorized public officials for hours before being removed. The double standard at play in these events infuriated millions.

No one could imagine a racial reversal with the same outcome in the Blake case. Nor could anyone picture people of color storming the Capitol with no repercussions. The idea that a group of Arab, African American, or Latino residents could behave in the same way is inconceivable. In America, the degree to which terrorists are deemed threatening is based heavily on skin color.

In response to the events in D.C., Congressional leaders immediately put on a full show of verbal outrage. The condemnation of the violent acts was almost universal and included Trump-enablers like Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell. Even the president was cajoled into an obligatory anti-violence statement.

I could not help but think how simple it is to condemn violence without condemning the ideology that caused it. It is no surprise that years of Republican leadership empowering a president who peddles in false grievances, racial division, and conspiracy theories would produce an insurrection. In fact, it most likely will only create more of the same. Once Trump has left office, Trumpism will remain.

Contrary to the public statements of Republicans, the actions at the Capitol are not antithetical to the principles of this administration or party. They are a full manifestation of them. Without a firm repudiation of an immoral ideology that preys on the poor, demonizes immigrants, celebrates gun culture, idolizes selfishness, rejects empirical evidence, and willfully ignores cries for racial justice, the Republican party will continue to dig its own deserved grave.

For the rest of the nation, moving forward is only possible with strong evidence of legal prosecution and swift policy changes. There must be a series of arrests and additional prosecutorial efforts that include the president. He and his followers must bear full legal responsibility for the misinformation and violence they have engendered. Wednesday’s insurrection was the result of years of language and action for which people must be held accountable.

Additionally, Dominion Voting Systems and other groups who have been defamed by the president’s misinformation campaign should be supported in their legal fights for justice. Lastly, the Confederate flag, present heavily at the insurrection, must be outlawed and treated like a racist and seditious symbol.

It is beyond time to remove this celebration of slavery and treason from our public spaces. These measures will produce some faith that equal justice can exist in this nation. Without them, the damage done this week to our democracy and the rule of law may be irreparable.

InsurrectionThe totality of this week’s events begs the question, is this America? The perception of the world is that it is a land of opportunity and freedom. There is still truth in this statement. However, the United States has been criminally negligent in fulfilling its promises for millions of its citizens. It has long celebrated a culture of violence, inequality, and racial exclusion. The Capitol insurrection is more of a mirror of our national identity that most care to believe.

Ironically, it was men of color who heavily cleaned up the Capitol after the rioters. Moreover, it was Stacy Abrams and other African-American women who delivered Georgia to the Democrats. It was African-American pastors in Kenosha who pushed for peace in response to the recent Jacob Blake announcement.

It is remarkable that generations of marginalized groups have continued to hope beyond hope. In Dr. King’s final speech, he says:

All we say to America is, be true to what you said on paper.

These groups have hoped that despite injustice, brutality, double standards, and the blatant violation of Constitutional principles, America’s promise is still true. Although the events of this week make this difficult to believe, I, along with millions, refuse to lose faith. It is these perpetually disregarded yet truly patriotic people that continue to save America from itself.

Written by Guest Author Ted Williams III
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware

Source:

American Rhetoric; Top 100 Speeches: Martin Luther King, Jr. “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Tyler Merbler’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image Courtesy of Blink O’fanaye’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image by Minnesota Historical Society Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License

Ted Williams III is a Professor and Actor based in Chicago, Illinois. Learn more at www.tedwilliamsIII.com

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