Chicago prosecutor to start erasing pot convictions soon

CHICAGO (AP) — A top Chicago prosecutor says she hopes to begin expunging minor cannabis convictions in the coming months but acknowledges it won’t be easy to implement her plan and that her office is still figuring out its scope.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx told the Chicago Sun-Times last week that she wants to enlist the help of San Francisco-based nonprofit, Code for America, which has already aided with expunging records in California.

Code for America “can help us find some infrastructure support of being able to look at the (Cook County) clerk’s office, Dorothy Brown’s office, to be able to identify batches of people who are found or convicted of the statutory code for possession of marijuana,” Foxx said.

Kiera Ellis, a spokeswoman for Foxx, said the state’s attorney’s office and Code for America have yet to sign an official contract. Code for America spokeswoman Maria Buczkowski confirmed the nonprofit is in discussions with the attorney’s office but declined to comment. Ellis previously said that people with convictions will not have to petition for expungements separately.

Foxx estimated that thousands of misdemeanor drug convictions could be wiped out.

“The question is, how far back can we go? How far back does the data go — which will give us what our universe looks like? But we’re in the process of figuring that out,” she said, adding that she also plans to work with state officials to determine whether her office can file petitions for expungement on behalf of people with minor pot convictions.

Foxx has recently advocated publicly for legalizing recreational marijuana in Illinois.

Her comments come amid backlash over her office’s decision to drop charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who was accused of staging a racist, anti-gay attack against himself.

Foxx said her office is also examining its policy toward prosecuting those detained for selling marijuana. She said she wanted to review her office’s policy given the swift movement toward full decriminalization in Springfield.

“The next iteration of this is looking at those sales,” she said, especially “in light of the fact that legalization looks like it’s becoming apparent. We don’t want to be on the back end of trying to figure out what to do.”

Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for Chicago police, said the department will stick to its job of “enforcing laws, investigating crimes and presenting our evidence-based findings to prosecutors.”

He referred comments to the state’s attorney’s office.

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