Illinois Distributes Marijuana-funded Grants to Community Organizations

In many states, recreational cannabis is legal. The state collects taxes on the sales of recreational cannabis. Some states, such as Illinois, are using those tax dollars to help with the war on illegal drugs. They are offering an expansion of programs and services for drug treatment in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic and more.

Where Illinois' Tax Dollars Come From

The tax dollars that Illinois is distributing to communities come from the state's Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program. This program was established at the same time that recreational cannabis became legal for adults to use. The law requires 25% of the tax dollars from marijuana sales to be put into the fund. The fund is supposed to provide disadvantages people with legal aid, youth development, financial support and community reentry services after a person leaves jail or prison.

About the Grant Recipients

Illinois distributed grant funds to 80 community organizations in the most recent round of funding. The funds were distributed on January 22. The funds will go to eligible communities and organizations. Faith-based organizations, local governments and businesses were eligible to get the funds. The state received 398 applications for the funds.

What the Chairperson of the Board Says About the Grants

Illinois' Lieutenant Governor, Julianna Stratton, is the chairperson of the board. She explained that there is a need to pair social equity and legalization. There was a lot of interest in the grant funds, which is why the state had to diligently review all of the applications. It held online meetings and comments in order to determine the best way to allocate the limited funds.

Why the Collaborative Efforts Are Important

The R3 program will provide funding to help with many problems faced by Illinois residents. According to Stratton, a lot of those problems have gone unaddressed. She said that the collaboration is innovative and promotes community inclusion in the decision-making process. She added that it sets up a standard for equity and success. Stratton hopes that other states will use Illinois' program as an example for their own programs.

What the Illinois Governor Has to Say

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said that he is happy to see the equity goal in cannabis legalization progressing down a positive path. He is happy with the leadership in the Illinois General Assembly, in the partnering organizations and with the businesses. He added that the program would not be possible without the cooperation of all of those stakeholders. Pritzker added that the first round of grant funding is a big step toward undoing the harm to communities. Those past events have caused a lot of lingering community problems.

How the Funds Can Be Used

The program's funds will be spread across different uses. Assessment and planning initiatives will receive $3.1 million. Another $28.3 million will go to the delivery of services.

How Grantees Were Selected

Choosing grantees required an analysis of local data on problems, such as poverty, the rate of incarceration, unemployment and gun violence. The program's goal is to repair the harms of cannabis criminalization from the past. The program wants to lift up the communities that have been harmed over decades of cannabis-associated arrests. The communities will provide help with housing, economic development and community reentry for people who have been incarcerated. Some funds will also be used to assist the victims of police violence. Grant recipients received amounts ranging from $20,000 to almost $2 million. Organizations that received funding include NAACP Westside Chicago Branch , University of Illinois , the YMCA, United Way and the city of Springfield. Illinois has also been expunging records and making pardons for past low-level cannabis convictions. These record expungement services will make it easier for people to secure an apartment and get a job.

What the Grantees Will Do With the Funds

Each grantee had different ideas in their proposals. Some, such as the YMCA, focus on community reentry for men who used to be incarcerated. The United Way will offer services to individuals and their families who have experienced gun violence, unemployment or incarceration. Most of the organizations are also offering some type of help with applying for jobs, providing access to technology and setting up people with safe living conditions. Counseling on an individual and group basis will also be available for those who had been incarcerated or those who were affected by gun violence.

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