Illinois Cannabis Bill May Violate State Constitution, Prosecutors Claim

Under the Illinois Constitution, only the governor can issue pardons

A key component of a bill that would legalize possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use in Illinois — erasing pot-related convictions for potentially hundreds of thousands of people — may violate the state Constitution, according to the group representing county prosecutors statewide.

The bill essentially would create legislative pardons, which are illegal, said Robert Berlin, president of the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association. Under the Illinois Constitution, only the governor can issue pardons, Berlin, the DuPage County state’s attorney, told The State Journal-Register. “It’s a separation of powers argument,” he said.

An additional constitutional concern, he said, is that prosecutors would be prohibited under the bill from helping to determine who is and isn’t eligible for expungement of certain misdemeanor and felony convictions. “It takes away all of our discretion,” Berlin said of Senate Bill 7, adding that court challenges could overturn such expungements.

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