You can pack your marijuana-related record away by seeking out expungement Credit: Topher i/Flickr

You may have had a marijuana­-related arrest, charge, or even sentence years ago and feel that your past is behind you. Perhaps you were arrested as a teenager for possession but never got charged. You may not realize that, unless you’ve gone through the process of having your records sealed or expunged, they are still public.

While there are laws in effect to prevent employers and landlords from discriminating against those with a criminal record, there are many reasons that one may want to have their records sealed or expunged. The core difference between “sealing” a record and “expunging” is that a sealed record will still exist and could be unsealed in specific legal situations. An expungement fully deletes the record of arrest or conviction from the archive. You may have to undergo a waiting period before you can start either process. Those whose arrests resulted in no charge or a dismissal could be eligible to start the process immediately after dismissal.

Several legal aid organizations in Chicago can help you navigate expungement.
Illinois Legal Aid offers information about Illinois laws and procedures on their website. You can also seek help from Cabrini Green Legal Aid in person at their help desk at the Daley Center (50 W. Washington, Room 1006) Monday-Thursday during limited hours. Be aware that help is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Project Homecoming, a new effort from the Westside Justice Center, runs a hotline for previously incarcerated people and their families.

There’s also a free summit coming up on June 1 hosted by Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown’s office that promises volunteer lawyers who will provide counseling about your case and assist you with the beginning of the process. You must pre-register to attend. Marijuana may soon be legal in lllinois, but it’s still a criminalized substance.   v