Cannabis Conviction Relief and Legalization

“The time for justice is now, especially for communities of color who have long been disproportionately impacted by low-level cannabis convictions and the failed war on drugs. We look forward to continuing our efforts to ensure the broadest relief possible under this revolutionary law." – Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO) played a proactive role in crafting the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act and ensuring this historic legislation provides the most extensive, equitable form of conviction relief possible. The law includes a provision that requires the expungement of low-level cannabis offenses. The information on this page applies specifically to Cook County’s conviction relief process. Other jurisdictions, as well as the state of Illinois, may have different processes for relief. Learn more about the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act in English and Spanish.

There are several ways to clear a record:

  • Seal: Record is hidden to everyone except law enforcement, NOT physically destroyed
  • Expunge: Record is physically destroyed
  • Vacate: Undo the conviction as if it never happened & allow for the underlying record to be expunged. 
  • Pardon: Granted only by the Governor, a pardon forgives a conviction & allows for the underlying record to be expunged. 

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office will move to vacate eligible cannabis convictions.

What is eligible for automatic relief?

  • Possession of cannabis under 30 grams
    • Class A Misdemeanor  
    • Class B Misdemeanor
    • Class 4 Felony

When will records be expunged?

conviction relief timeline

Why are older cases happening last?

Recent cases are often stored digitally. Starting with those cases will allow the greatest number of convictions to be eliminated most efficiently.
In addition, addressing recent convictions has the most potential to impact people currently facing barriers to employment and housing opportunities.

How will you know a record has been cleared?  

  • Once your record has been cleared, the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County will send notice via mail or e-mail to your last known address.  
  • Cook County residents and former residents whose conviction took place in Cook County can update their address through the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County by filling out an Affidavit for Change of Address for Cannabis Expungement Cases.

If you don’t want to wait for the CCSAO, what can you do?

Obtain a copy of your Record of Arrests and Prosecutions (RAP sheet) from the arresting agency, like the police department (fee may apply). File a petition to expunge or seal with the Clerk of the Court. Applicants may apply for a fee waiver (in person) with the Clerk of the Court if they are unable to afford the fees associated with filing an expungement petition.

Note: Cook County does not provide online access to criminal records. If your case was filed in suburban Cook County, go to the Circuit Clerk's Office in the district where you went to court. If your case was filed in the City of Chicago, you must go to Chicago Police Headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Illinois 60653.

How do you know if you’re eligible for AUTOMATIC relief?

Download a Cannabis Conviction Relief in Cook County postcard.

If not eligible for automatic relief, then what?

Any cannabis offenses that were accompanied by a conviction for a violent offense are NOT eligible for automatic relief. However, you may file a petition to expunge these, and any other eligible records, with the Clerk of the Circuit Court by following the steps outlined above.

How could conviction relief impact you?

Conviction relief can remove barriers to employment, housing, and education. If an eligible cannabis conviction was the only thing on your record, you will no longer have to check the box on applications that may ask, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime in Cook County?” once your conviction is cleared.

Still have questions?

Email SAO.Policy@cookcountyil.gov to speak directly with a member of the CCSAO.