CHICAGO (AP) — Thousands of people in Illinois convicted of low-level marijuana charges are starting the new year with clean records.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday issued pardons for 9,129 low-level cannabis conviction records and 492,192 cannabis-related arrests were expunged by the Illinois State Police.

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The expungement process is part of the state law that legalized the licensed sales of marijuana that began in 2020, and is designed to reduce the impact of drug laws, particularly for minorities.

“Statewide, Illinoisans hold hundreds of thousands low-level cannabis-related records, a burden disproportionately shouldered by communities of color,” Pritzker said in a statement. “We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of that damage. But we can govern with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past — and the decency to set a better path forward.”

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State law requires that 47,000 cannabis-related arrests between 2013 and 2019 had to be expunged by Friday but with the expungement of nearly a half-million arrests, the state police said it finished the job of completing automatic expungements at the state level four years ahead of schedule.

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