Illinois officials announced on Friday that they are awarding $3.5 million in grants funded by marijuana tax revenue to organizations that work to reduce violence through street intervention programs.
This is the latest funding opportunity to be made available through the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) Program, which was created under Illinois’s cannabis legalization law. The policy stipulates that 25 percent of marijuana tax dollars must go to community reinvestment for communities most impacted by violence, incarceration and poverty.
The new grants will support efforts to specifically combat violence during the summer months, when crime is typically highest.
“We have to address the root causes of violence and invest in communities and the people who deserve more resources and opportunities than they have historically been given” Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton (D) said in a press release. “These grants will increase programming, job opportunities, provide safe spaces, and other positive outlets for youth and emerging adults. When we empower people, we change lives and communities.”
These grants will increase programming, job opportunities, provide safe spaces, and other positive outlets for youth and emerging adults. When we empower people, we change lives and communities. #JEO @ICJIA_Illinois https://t.co/CYih7xozvz
— Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton (@LtGovStratton) July 16, 2021
Organizations based in 12 cities across Illinois—including Chicago and Joliet—will receive the funding. They include Bethel Family Resource Center, Boxing Out Negativity Inc., Free Lunch Academy, The Outlet and Youth With A Positive Direction.
“Using a public health approach, this emergency response to summer violence will expand and increase resources aimed at addressing the risk of escalating violence, which is experienced each year in the state’s most vulnerable communities,” Delrice Adams, acting director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), said.
Illinois has proved to have a robust adult-use cannabis market that has generated significant tax revenue for these and other purposes.
Based on monthly data, Illinois is set to see more than $1 billion in adult-use marijuana sales in 2021. And that, of course, means more tax dollars. Last year, Illinois sold about $670 million in cannabis and took in $205.4 million in tax revenue.
Illinois began taking in more tax dollars from marijuana than alcohol earlier this year, the state Department of Revenue reported in May. From January to March, Illinois generated about $86,537,000 in adult-use marijuana tax revenue, compared to $72,281,000 from liquor sales.
June was the fourth month in a row that recreational marijuana sales exceeded $100 million, according to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Last month saw a slightly higher monetary sum at $116,380,348 worth of cannabis purchases, albeit for fewer individual items sold.
Illinois officials have emphasized that the tax dollars from all of these sales are being put to good use. For example, the state announced in January that it is distributing $31.5 million in grants funded by marijuana tax dollars to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
Awarding the new grant money is not all that Illinois is doing to promote social equity and repair the harms of cannabis criminalization. Pritzker announced in December that his office had processed more than 500,000 expungements and pardons for people with low-level cannabis convictions on their records.
Relatedly, a state-funded initiative was recently established to help residents with marijuana convictions get legal aid and other services to have their records expunged.
But promoting social equity in the state’s cannabis industry has proved challenging. Illinois has faced criticism from advocates and lawsuits from marijuana business applicants who feel officials haven’t done enough to ensure diversity among business owners in the industry.
Pritzker signed a bill that took effect on Thursday that is meant to build upon the state’s legalization law by creating more cannabis business licensing opportunities that are meant to help people from disproportionately impacted communities enter into the marijuana industry.
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Regulators announced that they will hold three lotteries to award new licenses.
Meanwhile, a House committee recently approved a resolution that broadly condemns the war on drugs, calling it “the United States’ longest and costliest war and ultimately a complete and shameful failure.”