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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.

Clean Slate For Illinois Residents With Marijuana Convictions

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Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco
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State Representative Kelly Cassidy Unveils New Leaf Programs

A new program is promising free legal and advisory services for Illinois residents with marijuana convictions looking for a fresh start.

New Leaf Illinois is a state-sponsored program that aims to provide Illinois residents with resources to expunge their records of marijuana convictions. Illinois State Representative Kelly Cassidy said it’s the first step towards addressing the casualties from the war on drugs.

"We were insistent from day one that this be as close to automatic as we could -- and for the folks for whom it couldn’t be automatic -- we were going to make sure that every tool they needed was made available." Cassidy said. "That we weren’t putting new barriers in front of folks with this promise."

Funding for New Leaf Illinois comes from the 2019 Illinois cannabis legalization law, which mandated that the state create pathways for individuals previously arrested and convicted of cannabis violations to have their records expunged.

  • Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project which is a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms.
Juanpablo covers environmental, substandard housing and police-community relations. He’s been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office in Chicago. As a civic reporting fellow at City Bureau, a non-profit news organization that focuses on Chicago’s South Side, Ramirez-Franco produced print and audio stories about the Pilsen neighborhood. Before that, he was a production intern at the Third Coast International Audio Festival and the rural America editorial intern at In These Times magazine. Ramirez-Franco grew up in northern Illinois. He is a graduate of Knox College.