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Illinois governor pardons thousands with marijuana convictions; group responds

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Contributed by Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, commented on Illinois Gov. J.B. Prtizker’s issuance of pardons to over 11,000 people with low-level marijuana convictions, by saying, “We applaud bold action taken by Governor Pritzker to right wrongs of the past by issuing pardons to thousands of people carrying convictions for low-level marijuana possession.  

The racial disparities infecting our criminal justice system are undeniable and have disproportionately impacted Black and Brown communities. We may not be able to erase all of the damage that the war on drugs has unleashed on communities of color, but, going forward, we can provide all individuals with low-level marijuana convictions the chance to start anew and overcome barriers to reentry.” 

Of the 8.2 million individuals arrested for marijuana between 2001 and 2010 in the United States, 88% of those individuals were arrested for possession. This has disproportionately affected Black Americans, who are three times more likely than White Americans to be arrested for marijuana.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination.

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