‘This Is Reparations’: Chicago Neighborhoods Hurt By War On Drugs Will Get Economic Boost From Legal Cannabis

‘This Is Reparations’: Chicago Neighborhoods Hurt By War On Drugs Will Get Economic Boost From Legal Cannabis

Gov. J. B. Pritzker takes in the applause before signing a bill that legalizes adult-use cannabis in the state of Illinois at Sankofa Cultural Arts and Business Center in Chicago. Illinois becomes the 11th to legalize the adult-use of recreational marijuana. (AP Photo/Amr Alfiky)

Chicago and the rest of Illinois aren’t waiting for the federal government to make a move on the issue of reparations. 

In its recent legalization of marijuana — the 11th such state to do so — Illinois lawmakers “cut a new trail on policy questions that have bedeviled legalization-minded legislators elsewhere. Low-income communities of color that have borne disproportionate shares of the social and fiscal costs of the War on Drugs will have a dramatic leg up in the race for dispensary and grow-shop licenses in Illinois ahead of the law’s primary implementation date of January 1, 2020,” Think Progress reported.

Under the new policy, these communities will be first in line for direct investment from the tax revenues cannabis will generate for Illinois. “A full 25 percent of that new money is required to be set aside for the new “Restore, Reinvest, and Renew Program,” colloquially known as “R3,” Think Progress reported. Sales expected to top the $2 billion annually.

And state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D) has dubbed the R3 program’s community reinvestments as “reparations.” 

“What we are doing here is about reparations,” Gordon-Booth said. “After 40 years of treating entire communities like criminals, here comes this multibillion-dollar industry, and guess what? Black and brown people have been put at the very center of this policy in a way that no other state has ever done.”

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In another move, the law will erase arrest records for possession of small amounts of cannabis semi-automatically going back to 2013. Those arrests will be automatically expunged at year end, and the agency will then set about gathering such records from earlier years. By doing this, it will give those who have a clean record an opportunity to become cannabis entrepreneurs in the state.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 18: Boyce Watkins Jamarlin talks with Dr. Boyce Watkins about the lopsided relationship between the Democratic Party and Black America. They discuss potential 2020 presidential candidates, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Kamala Harris, and whether corporations and interests connected to foreign countries have more influence than Black voters on policy and priorities.

Low-interest loans will also be offered to certain communities.

“I think the biggest thing is they’re doing social equity before it’s enacted,” marijuana policy inclusion expert Chris Nani said in an interview. “That’s been the biggest issue I’ve noticed throughout the states.”

In Chicago, this policy will, some say, empower, the South and West sides of Chicago which disproportionately suffered from the “war on drugs” “as high rates of incarceration for petty offenses destroyed families and communities,” Book Club Chicago reported.