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Illinois Launches $31.5 Million Cannabis Equity Fund

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: May 20, 2020   
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Cannabis entrepreneurs from communities disproportionately impacted by the drug’s criminalization will soon be able to apply for restorative justice grants in Illinois.

In an announcement on Monday, May 18, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) confirmed that $31.5 million will be available to marijuana services from eligible areas that have suffered economic disinvestment and violence as part of the war on drugs.

Illinois justice

The new fund is part of the state’s Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) programme. Written into state’s Cannabis Regulation and Trust Act, the R3 initiative pledged to reinvest 25 percent of Illinois’ total cannabis tax revenue into disadvantaged communities through the funding of local community groups and initiatives.

“The R3 program is a critical step towards repairing the harms caused by the failed war on drugs and decades of economic disinvestment,” Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, who also sits on the R3 board, said in a statement.

“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.”

Any funded cannabis program must offer practices within at least one of five R3 program priority areas: civil legal aid, economic development, re-entry 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,” Jason Stamps, the acting director of the ICJIA, said in a statement.

“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.”

The deadline to submit applications for the grants is July 20, 2020.

Equitable treatment

Recreational cannabis sales became legal in Illinois on January 1 this year. Any state resident over the age of 21 with valid identification can carry up to 30 grams of dried cannabis flower, 5 grams of concentrates, and up to 500 milligrams of THC in an edible form.

The state was the second in the US to legalize the drug through its state legislature, and the first to include language in its legalization bill which would offer reparations to those from communities disproportionally affected by cannabis prohibition.

In the first wave of the equity plan, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker granted 11,017 pardons to people who had previously been convicted of cannabis possession.

In California, a separate $30 million cannabis equity fund was announced last month by the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control and Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.


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