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Illinois offering $31 million in cannabis tax revenue to repair drug war damage

June 4, 2020
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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed one of the nation's most comprehensive and equity-forward marijuana legalization laws. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

As the United States undergoes nationwide unrest over police brutality and the systemic oppression of Black people, state officials in Illinois announced a small step of progress earlier this week.

On Tuesday, the state opened applications for its Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program, which will distribute $31.5 million in cannabis tax revenue to the communities hit hardest by the war on drugs. Application materials with instructions on how to apply are available here. The deadline for all applications is Monday, July 20, 2020.

The R3 program is one of the highest-profile examples of social equity being “baked in” to marijuana legalization proposals. It’s one of the reasons many legalization advocates look to the Illinois legalization law as one of the gold standards for states looking to make progress on the issue.

$25k to $850k for local programs

As to the program itself: The R3 project offers grants ranging from $25,000 to more than $850,000 to nonprofit organizations, local municipalities, and tax-exempt faith-based organizations based in or focused on designated R3 zones. These could be social service program, economic opportunity projects, or other similar proposals.

The R3 funds are meant to address five areas of concern: civil legal aid, economic development, reentry from the criminal justice system, violence prevention, and youth development.

“In developing these funding opportunities, the focus has been on equity in opportunity at the community level,” said Jason Stamps, acting director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. “This program will start to close those gaps in areas most hard hit by gun violence, unemployment, and criminal justice system overuse. To do so, we are looking to R3 communities for proposals of programs and strategies they identify to best address their needs and challenges.”

See if your community qualifies

State officials have posted a helpful map highlighting the R3 zones. It’s zoomable and gets right down to street level. (Well done, Illinois.)

This is all made possible by the state’s cannabis law, which stipulates that 25 percent of tax revenue from marijuana sales must go to the R3 program.

“The R3 program is a critical step towards repairing the harms caused by the failed war on drugs and decades of economic disinvestment,” said Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton (D), who was among the first customers to purchase cannabis when shops opened in January, said in a press release. “Equity is one of the administration’s core values, and we are ensuring that state funding reaches organizations doing critical work in neighborhoods most impacted by the war on drugs.”

Bruce Barcott's Bio Image

Bruce Barcott

Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.

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