From marijuana legalization to minimum wage, how state laws are changing in 2020
On the final day of 2019, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker pardoned more than 11,000 people convicted for possessing low levels of cannabis. He said hundreds of thousands of others could see their records expunged. He said “We are giving people a new lease on life. We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of the damage that’s been done. But, today, here in Illinois, we can govern with the courage to right the wrongs of the past. ”
The governor’s announcement came as Illinois becomes today the 11 state to legalize marijuana. As Lisa Desjardins explains, that’s just one example of scores of new laws going into effect across the country.
Congress and the president have been dominating, almost monopolizing the headlines lately, but the states are arguably doing more that changes the law, including a sweep of new state laws going into effect today, from criminal justice reforms and higher minimum wages, to the cost of electric cars.
Let’s start right away with criminal justice reform. As Nick reported, Illinois has wiped out thousands of arrests and reversed convictions over marijuana, a small amount of marijuana possession, as part of the legalization of the drug for recreational use.
Marijuana and Minor Drug Crimes
We have seen Congress acting on criminal justice reform as one of their major initiatives this year, basically the only thing they could agree on, on a bipartisan basis. But it really started in the states. And we have seen this push toward expunging records for minor drug crimes, especially in states where marijuana is now legal. And we have seen this effort in places like California, New Jersey and elsewhere, now, of course, in Illinois, as their recreational marijuana law takes effect. In some other states — New York has ended cash bail. It’s another one of the — another trend that we’re starting to see in bluer states, a recognition that a lot of low-income residents who find themselves in jail can’t afford to bail themselves out and, in some cases, plead guilty to crimes they haven’t committed just in order to get themselves out of jail quickly. And then, in states like New Jersey and Kentucky, we have seen a push towards re-enfranchising felons who were once in jail and now, once they’re out of jail, get the right to vote back. The theory behind it is basically, the more you are reintegrated into your community, the less likely you are to offend again and head back to jail.