An Evanston, Illinois Aldermen is making sure that African-Americans receive some type of reparations from the legal sale of recreational marijuana. Aldermen Robin Rue Simmons, of the 5th ward, proposed a plan to direct all sales tax revenue collected from recreational marijuana purchases into an account that will allow for reparations locally, and this week, it was approved.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the program’s goal is to help Evanston’s Black population stay in the city and will also offer job training and other benefits.
“We can implement funding to directly invest in Black Evanston,” said Ald. Robin Rue Simmons.
In Illinois, where the state Legislature easily approved the sale of recreational marijuana this past spring, some communities have been hesitant to allow businesses in their own backyards, particularly in the suburbs, as reported in USA Today. While Chicago plans to allow cannabis sales, some suburban local precincts have decided to opt-out.
The suburb of Evanston and its’ leaders are using this local reparations program as an opportunity to tackle the ongoing outcomes of institutional slavery and discrimination against Blacks.
Alderman Simmons also saw this as an opportunity to correct the wrongs done against Black residents of Evanston that may have been incarcerated due to the “war on drugs” and spent time behind bars for smoking marijuana which is now recreationally legal in Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The tax on marijuana will “be invested in the community it unfairly policed and damaged,” Simmons said.
A local committee of residents will now examine how the money should be allocated and best practices of supporting the Black community through housing, education, and economic incentives.
According to the City of Evanston staff reports the fund will have a cap of $10 million, with the city projecting to make $500,000 to $750,000 annually in marijuana sales tax.
“I support the approval of the ordinance for the city of Evanston to commit all of the anticipated tax revenue from the recreational marijuana businesses, to support work aimed at intentionally repairing harms done to the Black community from policies and practices in so many different areas,” said Oliver Ruff, a retired teacher and Evanston resident.
Simmons’ proposal was the aftermath of a decrease in Evanston’s black population, from 22.5% of the population in 2000 to 16.9% in 2017, according to U.S. Census data.