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Illinois Awards $45 Million In Marijuana Tax-Funded Grants To Support Communities Damaged By Drug War

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Illinois officials announced on Thursday that they are awarding $45 million in grants, using funds generated from taxes on adult-use marijuana sales, to support community reinvestment in areas “hardest hit by the failed war on drugs.”

This is the second round of funding that’s being made available through the state’s Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program, which was established under Illinois’s adult-use cannabis legalization law.

The $45 million will support 148 programs run by organizations operating on relatively small budgets in communities designated as socioeconomically disadvantaged. The state first announced that applications for this grant round were open in December.

“A modern and equitable cannabis industry requires equity, opportunity, and a robust investment in righting the wrongs of the war on drugs,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said in a press release. “That means investing in our underserved communities who’ve gone far too long without the funding and resources they need and deserve to heal and prosper.”

“We’re proud to use cannabis revenue to directly support community-based organizations invested in creating opportunity,” he said.

Under Illinois’s recreational marijuana law, 25 percent of tax revenue generated from cannabis sales must support communities that are economically distressed, experience high rates of violence and have been disproportionately impacted by drug criminalization.

The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) said it received 512 completed submissions for the R3 grants that were then vetted by community residents and stakeholders.

Among the grant recipients are the Illinois Prison Project, Illinois Equity Staffing LLC, Lifehouse Recovery Organization, Resilience Partners NFP and Women in Need Recover, each of which received about $1.5 million. Grant amounts varied, with most in the mid-to-low six figures. Cook County, where Chicago is located, received $305,137.

Organizations that received grants through the initial R3 round last year will have their funding renewed for another year to ensure that they can continue providing services in their communities.

“Illinois is showing what it looks like to work toward repairing the harm impacting our communities, by continuing to build the infrastructure that addresses decades of disinvestment, over-incarceration, and trauma,” Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton (D) said. “As a tool connecting communities to the resources they need equitably and sustainably, R3 is at the core of our efforts to bring restorative, healing solutions to the people and regions that have for too long been unheard and underserved.”

 

Last year, in July, state officials put $3.5 million in cannabis-generated funds toward efforts to reduce violence through street intervention programs.

Illinois officials have touted the strength of the state’s marijuana market, but they’ve stressed the importance of putting tax dollars from the program to good use in repairing the systemic harms of prohibition.

The state saw nearly $132 million in adult-use cannabis sales in April, the second highest monthly total since the market launched in 2020. The first couple of months of 2022 saw lagging sales, but state data on cannabis purchases in March and April indicates that the market is on the rebound.

From last year’s sales, Illinois generated almost $100 million more in tax revenue from adult-use marijuana sales than from alcohol in 2021, state data found.

While state officials have consistently voiced their commitment to equity, legalization’s rollout hasn’t been without hiccups and frustration among would-be licensees. Illinois regulators have faced legal challenges over the way social equity licensing applications have been managed, with complaints about the lottery system that the state later said it would work to resolve. As the market has matured, there have still lingering problems, including a court order that prohibited the state from approving 185 additional recreational cannabis shops for nearly a year before that decision was lifted last month.

In addition to providing community reinvestment funding, the governor announced in 2020 that his office had processed more than 500,000 expungements and pardons for people with low-level cannabis convictions on their records.

Pritzker also recently signed a bill that will make it so courts cannot deny petitions to expunge or seal records based on a positive drug test for marijuana.

state-funded initiative was also recently established to help residents with marijuana convictions get legal aid and other services to have their records expunged.

It’s these types of initiatives that Toi Hutchinson recently told Marijuana Moment that she’s most proud of as she transitioned from being Pritzker’s cannabis advisor to the president of the national advocacy group, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

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Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.

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