Illinois Town to Fund Reparations Program with Marijuana Sales Tax

A woman from Seattle, smokes a joint at the first annual DOPE Cup, a cannabis competition in Portland, Oregon, on October 4, 2015. As of October 1, 2015 limited amounts of recreational marijuana became legal for all adults over the age of 21 to purchase in the state of Oregon. …
Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

An Illinois town has approved a measure to fund a local reparations program with proceeds from the purchase of recreational marijuana.

On Monday, Evanston aldermen voted 8-1 in favor of the proposal aimed at what officials believe will improve help the city’s black community. Local leaders eye marijuana dispensaries as an attractive source of revenue to reverse what they call the ongoing impact of institutional racist and persisting effects of slavery, according to the Chicago Tribune. “The fund will be capped at $10 million, according to city of Evanston staff reports. City estimates project the marijuana tax could generate $500,000 to $750,000 per year,” the newspaper noted.

However, Evanston officials face roadblocks in collecting adequate revenue from the plan as various suburbs have yet to approve the establishment of recreational marijuana dispensaries, despite them being scheduled to become legal in Illinois next year.

“We can implement funding to directly invest in black Evanston,” 5th Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons said of the measure.

The marijuana tax will be “invested in the community it unfairly policed and damaged,” Simmons added.

“This is a really special moment in the city of Evanston and also in the country,” stated Second Ward Alderman Peter Braithwaite.

The development comes as Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced resolutions to approve studies to examine reparations proposals for African Americans over slavery.

The debate over reparations took center stage in June when Congress heard testimony for and against the idea of providing compensation for slavery. On June 19th, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held a hearing on Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee’s (D-TX) bill in support of the idea. The panel invited 2020 White House hopeful Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), actor Danny Glover, and others to the measure.

Booker testified that the U.S. “yet to truly acknowledge and grapple with the racism and white supremacy that tainted this country’s founding and continues to cause persistent and deep racial disparities and inequality.”

“The stain of slavery was not just inked in bloodshed, but in policies that have disadvantaged African Americans for generations,” he added.

Earlier this year, the New Jersey Democrat introduced a similar version of Jackson Lee’s measure in the upper chamber.

In a Point Taken-Marist poll conducted in 2016, 68 percent of Americans said they opposed paying cash reparations to descendants of slaves as a means to address slavery and racial discrimination. Roughly 8 in 10 white Americans said they were against the idea of reparations, while about 6 in 10 black respondents expressed support for it.


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