Illinois to fund “reparations” program for African American community with marijuana taxes


Illinois- It looks like the city of Chicago is attempting to do what some economists claim is an almost impossible task to do: create a method of accruing and distributing reparations to the African American community.

If you’re curious as to how these funds would even be gathered, their solution is simple: they’re going to get the funds off the sales of recreational marijuana.

Lawmakers in a Chicago suburb earlier this week approved using taxes from recreational marijuana sales to establish what they deem a local reparations program.

The money will go toward areas like job training and other benefits for Evanston’s black population, as reported by the Pioneer Press. Ald. Robin Rue Simmons, who was the one who proposed the bill initially stated: 

“We can implement funding to directly invest in black Evanston.”

Simmons said the source of the funds was especially appropriate, making sure to mention that the “war on drugs” was mainly responsible for the increased incarceration rates among African-Americans, many of which were for marijuana-related offenses.

In an overwhelming show of support for the bill, the 8-1 vote comes as the city’s black population has dipped from 22.5 percent in 2000 to just under 17 percent in 2017, the paper reported.

Supporters of the program say it will help address the lingering effects of slavery and discrimination, but it doesn’t’ mean that the notion of reparations are something wildly accepted. While it sounds like a good idea in spirit, according to the “The Economics of Reparations” by William A. Darity Jr. and Dania Frank:

“The moral hazard principle alerts us to potential problems in establishing criteria for eligibility”.

It’s a fair question; does someone who is simply black receive benefits, while possibly having zero lineage that dates back to slavery in the United States? Or would someone who appears Caucasian that actually has slavery in their lineage receive aid as well? Tough questions with not so easy answers. 

Furthermore, the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also gave his thoughts on a potential reparations program when it became a talking point to Democratic hopefuls for the 2020 presidential race, saying:

“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea. We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We elected an African-American president.”

With regard to the bill that passed, the fund will be capped at $10 million, while the city estimates that the taxes from recreational marijuana sales could generate between $500,000 and $750,000 annually.

Studying the tax rates for legal marijuana can be a little confusing.

There’s a 3% excise tax, as well as a 10% tax on the state level for marijuana containing less than 35% of THC.

Products with a rate greater than 35% THC will be taxed at a 25% rate.

Anything that is infused with cannabis is taxed at a flat rate of 20% at the state level (these are typically your “edibles” as they’re often referred to as). I’d feel sorry for the H&R Block rep that files those business taxes.

The idea of reparations to compensate the descendants of slaves has gained traction among progressives lately, while a majority of conservatives oppose it.

The opposition mostly comes from the questions related to the “who” and the “how” of it all, not to mention that enacting reparations would create a landslide of everyone trying to right every historical wrong with someone else’s money.

Marianne Williamson, a spiritual advisor and 2020 presidential candidate, unveiled a formal reparation plan earlier this year. The long-shot Democratic candidate has called for between $200 and $500 billion for a “payment of a debt that is owed.”

Earlier this year in Illinois, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA) was approved by state legislators with a vote of 66-47, making Illinois the 11th state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.

Here’s how the bill works. Cannabis products can’t be transported over state lines.  And before tax revenue is spread around, it will first cover needs and costs related to expungement or the clearing of marijuana related records.

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Illinois to fund "reparations" program for African American community with marijuana taxes

On top of that, the state will allow towns to decide individually how cannabis-related businesses may fit into their communities, and employers may still maintain zero tolerance workplaces.

The state law will also allow landlords and business owners to still have zero tolerance policies as well.

Governor Pritzker praised the move legalizing marijuana in a statement:

“The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation. This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance.”

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago also expressed enthusiasm:

“I applaud my fellow members of the Illinois House of Representatives for their historic vote today on House Bill 1438 – legislation that promises to usher in a new, smarter era of cannabis regulation in our state.”

State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine), voted against the legislation and released the following statement:

“As a lawmaker and as a father, I have grave concerns about the message this sends our children. Beyond the health concerns I have, there are also issues with public safety and workforce safety.”

Morrison said the state’s law enforcement agencies don’t support the bill.

“They are not ready for this and don’t have the capabilities to enforce this. This bill undermines our efforts to make our state safer and will put a greater burden on our social service agencies. As we’ve heard from residents of other states, Illinois is making a big mistake in failing to recognize the unintended consequences of legalization.”

State Representative Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) said it’s the wrong path:

“I am not conceptually against the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana, but I could not support the legislation as it was presented to us on Thursday.”

He said if the goal is to destroy the illegal street market and ensure a safer product while not increasing overall usage of marijuana, that they aren’t moving in the right direction.

“I believe we’re on the wrong path. By putting production and sales into the hands of companies that succeed or fail based on their ability to expand the market for their product, we are setting the stage for increased use of cannabis. A better path, in my opinion, would be to issue licenses for production and sale to non-profit entities with boards that protect public health and charters that limit their mission to meeting existing demand.”

Who Gets To Grow and Sell Marijuana In Illinois?

To start, only the 20 existing licensed medical marijuana grow facilities will be allowed to grow it. But next year, craft growers will be allowed to apply for licenses that would allow them to cultivate up to 5,000 square feet.

Who gets preference on applications?

Those from “minority areas disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, such as the South and West sides of Chicago”.

In order to sell it, medical marijuana dispensaries and new retail stores will be licensed. 

Medical cannabis patients will be allowed to each grow up to five plants each at home.

Who Can Buy It?

If you’re an Illinoi resident age 21 and over, you’ll be allowed to possess up to 30 grams or one ounce of flower – that’s about as much as an adult can hold in cupped hands.

You’ll also be allowed 5 grams of cannabis concentrate or 500 milligrams of THC (that’s the chemical that gets you high) in a cannabis-infused product like candy, tinctures or lotions.

If you’re an adult visitor to the state, you can have up to 15 grams of marijuana.

Who Can Ban It?

Towns, cities and counties can ban cannabis businesses within their boundaries under the law, but they can’t ban individual possession.

Any person, business or landlord, along with colleges and universities, can continue to prohibit marijuana use.

Where Is It Prohibited?

Under the new law, it’s not allowed in any public place like on the street or in a park, on school grounds (except for medical users), in any motor vehicle, in a correctional facility, near someone under 21, while driving a boat or flying a plane, or by a school bus driver, police, fire or corrections officer while on duty.

What Does It Do To Criminal Records?

The governor is going to pardon past convictions for possession of up to 30 grams, with the attorney general going to court to expunge or delete public records of a conviction or arrest.

As far as possession of 30 to 500 grams, an individual or a state’s attorney may petition the court to vacate and expunge the conviction, but prosecutors may object, ultimately letting a judge make the decision.

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