Illinois City Will Use Weed Taxes to Pay Reparations for Black Residents
The first-of-its-kind initiative is an effort to keep more black residents in Evanston, and to start righting the wrongs of slavery, the War on Drugs, and centuries of racist persecution.
Published on December 2, 2019

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A landmark social equity program was approved in Evanston, Illinois late last week, establishing the nation’s first reparations program for black residents funded directly by legal weed taxes. 

The new tax directive will funnel all of Evanston’s legal cannabis tax money to programs that will directly support the city’s black residents and repair centuries of racism dating back to the slave trade and continuing through institutional racism and policies like the War on Drugs. According to the Chicago Tribune, Evanston Aldermen approved the citywide ordinance 8-1.

“We can implement funding to directly invest in black Evanston,” Alderwoman Robin Rue Simmons, who proposed the reparations bill, told the Tribune, noting that the Chicago suburb’s expected $500,000 to $750,000 in annual cannabis tax revenue will “be invested in the community it unfairly policed and damaged.”

While a number of Illinois’s small towns and suburbs have “opted out” of legalization by blocking dispensaries from popping up after next month’s recreational cannabis sales start, Evanston has taken the opposite approach and welcomed pot shops with open arms. And when tax cash starts rolling in from those dispensaries next month, Rue Simmons said that the reparations programs will be especially appropriate considering the history of racist marijuana policing in Evanston and beyond. 

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

Since the year 2000, Evanston has seen a significant decrease in black residents, from 22.5 percent of census respondents at the turn of the millenium to only 16.9 percent in 2017. It has not yet been decided how the money from the city’s new reparations program will be spent, but Rue Simmons and others suggested the funds could be used to reign in soaring housing costs, or to support local education, or economic programs.

“We are on the right track,” Alderwoman Ann Rainey told the Tribune.

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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