Chicago Suburb Designates $10 Million in Marijuana Tax Revenue for Reparations Program

City Council members in Evanston, Illinois voted to use some of the money raised from marijuana sales to address racial wealth gaps and lack of opportunities for people of color.

A Chicago suburb will be giving its first $10 million in recreational marijuana tax revenue to a fund aimed at repairing the damages of racial discrimination.

The City of Evanston Reparations Fund was approved by the city’s council on Nov. 25. Resolution-126-R19 establishes the reparations fund and creates a revenue source for the fund by transferring all recreational cannabis retailers’ tax to the initiative until it has reached $10 million.

Robin Rue Simmons, who represents the city of Evanston’s 5th Ward, asked city leaders to pass the resolution, which she believes could have reparatory effects on the city’s families impacted by discriminatory mortgage practices from the 1930s.

“Holding true to our ceremonial traditions and statements I’m requesting that we take an action as radical as a redlining, still impacting our families today,” Simmons said.

“A reparation policy is our best step in repairing the demonstrable damages to black families, black neighborhoods, black institutions, and black businesses,” Simmons added. “We are leaders in Evanston and it is time we lead our city past ceremony and apology and into an overdue commitment or reparative policy.”

City of Evanston Reparations Fund

The state of Illinois will launch its recreational marijuana program on Jan. 1. As part of its 2020 budget, the Evanston City Council voted 8-1 to transfer the first $10 million in tax revenue from retail sales on recreational marijuana to the City of Evanston Reparations Fund.

The fund aims to address the city’s racial wealth gap. White residents in Evanston earn an estimated $46,000 per year more than black residents. According to a report from NBC Chicago, an average of $500,000 to $700,000 could be generated by the reparations initiative annually.

The council created a Reparations Subcommittee to determine how the reparations fund dollars will be utilized in the future. The initiative’s overarching goal is to help Evanston’s black community thrive. The program also includes providing job training as well as other benefits.

Simmons played a significant role in passing the reparations initiative by helping create support committees and reaching out to national leaders. Many community meetings were held leading up to the council vote.

During the Nov. 25 council meeting, Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward Alderman, said he believes the initiative will cause a ripple effect across the nation to create change.

“For those that will watch this today, later, and in the future, all of us that sit behind this dais and will support it, this is a really special moment in the city of Evanston and also in the country,” Braithwaite said.

To continue the discussion with the community, a meeting has been scheduled co-hosted by the National African American Reparations Commission.

Actor Danny Glover will be the keynote speaker at an Evanston community town hall meeting on Dec. 11. Glover, U.N. Ambassador for Decade for People of African Descent, is attending and speaking in support of the city’s $10 Million Reparations Initiative.

According to a report from Patch, only one recreational cannabis dispensary has been licensed in Evanston thus far. It serves as the community’s only medical marijuana dispensary and has been authorized to sell recreational marijuana starting Jan. 1, 2020.

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