The state of Illinois announced last week that it would begin accepting applications for a new social justice program funded by cannabis tax revenues.
Illinois’s R3 program, which stands for Restore, Reinvest, and Renew, has earmarked $31.5 million for grants that will fund “economic development, violence prevention,” societal re-entry for former convicts, “youth development," and "civil legal aid” for the state’s low-income communities most affected by the War on Drugs. Non-profit organizations, faith-based organizations, and entire municipalities are eligible for these funds. The program was written into HB 1438, the bill that legalized recreational cannabis in the Prairie State.
R3’s application window is currently open, and prospective applicants can sign up to receive grants for either their planned projects or their currently offered services through R3’s website. Grants for a community project range from $25,000 to $850,000, depending on the project’s scope, utility, and purpose. Illinois has provided a map for eligible communities, and the deadline for all applications is Monday, July 20, 2020.
“We wanted as much money as possible to go into those communities,” Toi Hutchinson, Illinois’s cannabis czar, told Chicago Business. “We were also coming off the end of a two-year budget impasse that hollowed out nonprofits. The ones hurt most were the small ones on the ground.”
Although the state currently plans to distribute $31.5 million through R3, that figure will fluctuate depending on the year and on the success of Illinois’s adult-use cannabis program. For 2020, $10 million will be awarded. By 2021, $25 million will go into R3 grants. And once the “market matures,” about $125 million in grants will be awarded annually. In March alone, Illinois sold nearly $36 million in legal weed.
"The R3 program is a critical step towards repairing the harms caused by the failed War on Drugs and decades of economic disinvestment," Lieutenant Governor and R3 Board Chair Juliana Stratton said in a press release. Stratton was also one of the state’s first legal pot customers. "Equity is one of the administration's core values, and we are ensuring that state funding reaches organizations doing critical work in neighborhoods most impacted by the War on Drugs."
Although R3 cannot right all of the wrongs caused by America’s ongoing prohibition of cannabis, it’s definitely a start. At the moment, the current worldwide protests against police brutality, coupled with an economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, have pushed lawmakers toward considering greater drug law reforms, but whether those reforms become reality has yet to materialize.