Cannabis criminal record relief: A Q&A with Katie Blakeman

The following article appeared in Smile Politely on May 21, 2019

Just a couple of weeks ago, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the details of a much anticipated and expected bill to legalize cannabis in the state of Illinois. Champaign County Circuit Clerk Katie Blakeman has seen it coming, and has been a part of the process as considerations are made for those who have been convicted of marijuana-related offenses.

She is a co-chair of the Illinois Association of Circuit Clerks, and was invited to be on the Criminal Justice Working Group to help inform legislators as they write their cannabis legalization bill. They were looking to her to be sure the law will expunge the records of people previously convicted for what could soon be a legal use of cannabis.

Smile Politely: In the past you’ve worked on expungement locally. Is that how you connected with these legislators?

Katie Blakeman: In this case it was because I served as the legislative co-chair for the Association of Circuit Clerks around the state. Because of my experience with criminal record relief, it made sense for me to serve and talk with legislators about record clearance. We as an association were excited to be at the table. In previous legislative sessions we’ve had to come and testify after a bill has been filed. We’re trying to help legislators understand that, "We understand what your legislative intent is, but this is what will happen procedurally if you do this." We’re just thrilled to have been at the table to assist in getting the language right so that if this is what they want to accomplish with the legislation, we can make sure it’s done correctly and accomplishes what they want.

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