One argument for the legalization of marijuana is the opportunity to fund critical community projects and organizations with the tax revenue from legal sales. The state of Illinois is doing just this and they are being very precise with where this money goes. The state is distributing $31.5 million in grants to support communities that have been specifically negatively impacted by violence and poverty stemming from the war on drugs.
The grants, funded with tax revenue from legal marijuana sales, will go to 80 organizations focused on violence prevention as well as legal aid and rehabilitation resources for those convicted of crimes. These organizations include nonprofits, businesses, and local governments.
The grants are part of Illinois’ larger Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) Program which received 25 percent of the $175 million in tax revenue generated by over $900 million in legal cannabis sales last year. The law stipulates that these funds must go to communities affected by the economic divestment, violence, and disproportionate prosecution of minorities associated with the war on drugs.
Factors that make areas eligible for grant funding include high rates of gun injuries, child poverty, unemployment, and state prison commitments and returns. The largest grant was awarded to Emerald South Development Corp. The organization received $2.5 million to further its projects focused on youth and economic development and violence prevention on Chicago’s South Side. All the grants were allocated by the R3 board which includes state agency officials, elected officials, service providers, violence prevention experts, and former inmates.
This program in Illinois is a great solution for ensuring that the revenue from legal marijuana sales goes towards supporting communities that, for decades, suffered disproportionate incarceration, profiling, and violence at the hands of the war on drugs. We hope to see other states following suit with similar reparations programs in the near future.