Illinois Fights Violence with Cannabis (and Other Positive Impacts)

illinois cannabis violence prevention

The financial impacts of legalization have been long theorized and quickly proven. Other societal benefits have not always been easy to predict but some states that have passed laws allowing for medical and recreational cannabis are demonstrating what good can come from ending cannabis prohibition. Illinois, for example, is a leader in utilizing taxes to improve its communities. Now, Illinois violence prevention through cannabis is helping the state lead the way.

Recently, officials announced $3.5 million in grants funded by cannabis tax revenue to be awarded to organizations that work towards Illinois violence prevention through street intervention programs. The new grants will go towards efforts to specifically combat violence that occurs during the summer months when crime is often at a maximum. “We have to address the root causes of violence and invest in communities and the people who deserve more resources and opportunities than they have historically been given,” Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said in a press release. “These grants will increase programming, job opportunities, provide safe spaces, and other positive outlets for youth and emerging adults. When we empower people, we change lives and communities.”

Organizations based in 12 Illinois cities will receive the funding, including Boxing Out Negativity Inc., The Outlet, Free Lunch Academy, Bethel Family Resource Center, and Youth With A Positive Direction. “Using a public health approach, this emergency response to summer violence will expand and increase resources aimed at addressing the risk of escalating violence, which is experienced each year in the state’s most vulnerable communities,” said Delrice Adams, acting director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA).

Cannabis Violence Prevention in Illinois

The Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) Program, which was created under Illinois’s cannabis legalization law, includes this major grant as another victory for the state. Under the program, and per policy, 25% of cannabis tax dollars are stipulated for reinvestment into communities most impacted by violence, poverty, and incarceration, and are used to provide disadvantaged people with services such as legal aid, youth development, community reentry and financial support. In the Land of Lincoln, a stout adult-use market has emerged, therefore producing substantial tax revenue for community return. In 2021, the state is set to see more than $1 billion in recreational cannabis sales. As a comparison, in 2020, Illinois sold about $670 million in cannabis, leading to $205.4 million in tax revenue.

The grant awarded in July is the second of the year: in January, 80 grants totaling $31.5 million were given to applicants that included nonprofit organizations, local units of government, tax-exempt faith-based organizations, businesses, and other community organizations in designated eligible R3 zones. Governor Pritzker said “I’m so proud to see this key equity goal in cannabis legalization move forward and I applaud the leaders in the General Assembly, ICJIA, and stakeholders across the state who made this moment possible. By awarding this first round of R3 grants, we are taking another important step toward undoing the harms of the past, and Lt. Governor Stratton and I will continue to ensure equity is a top priority as the cannabis program moves forward.” Additionally, Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton commented “The R3 program will tackle chronic problems that have gone unaddressed for far too long in our underserved neighborhoods. The collaboration between the Justice, Equity, and Opportunity Initiative and ICJIA is innovative and reinvents the grant process with community inclusion and promotes a standard for equity and success that other states will hopefully take note of and emulate.”    

In addition to giving grant money to supporting organizations, Illinois is also promoting social equity and working to repair the damage of cannabis criminalization via a state-funded initiative to help residents with cannabis convictions get legal and other professional services for record expungement. As of December, more than 500,000 expungements and pardons have been completed for those with records of low-level cannabis convictions.

Illinois saw $121,933,542 in cannabis purchases last month, with $81,275,830 coming from in-state residents and $40,657,711 from out-of-state visitors. It’s the second-highest sales record since the state’s recreational market launched and the sixth month in a row sales surpassed $100 million. In all, consumers bought 2,702,230 individual recreational marijuana items in August. These figures do not include sales of medical cannabis, which are tracked separately by a different agency. These sales further contribute to cannabis violence prevention in Illinois.

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