Aldermen in the city of Evanston in Illinois have voted to use all revenue generated from recreational marijuana taxes to fund reparations program that will benefit its African-American residents.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the bill, which was approved after an 8-1 vote on November 25 aims to help the city’s black population stay. It will also provide job training as well as other incentives. According to data from the U.S. Census, the population of black residents in the city decreased from 22.5% of the population in 2000 to 16.9% in 2017.
“We can implement funding to directly invest in black Evanston,” Ald. Robin Rue Simmons said.
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City of Evanston staff revealed the fund will have a $10 million cap with a possible annual revenue of $500,000 to $750,000 generated from marijuana tax.
The program will take effect in 2020 when the sale of recreational marijuana to adults in the state of Illinois officially becomes legal. Though the city has opted to legalize and generate revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana, several other suburbs have chosen not to.
According to city officials, the reparations program is meant to atone for the persistent institutional setbacks of slavery as well as discrimination against blacks.
Simmons, who proposed the bill, said the source of the revenue was justified, especially as some of the city’s black residents, as a result of the state’s “war on drugs”, were convicted for smoking marijuana prior to its recreational legalization, the Chicago Tribune further reports.
She added that the revenue will “be invested in the community it unfairly policed and damaged.”
A committee has already been set up to explore how the funds will be disbursed and how it will benefit the city’s black residents through housing, education and economic incentives.
“I support the approval of the ordinance for the city of Evanston to commit all of the anticipated tax revenue from the recreational marijuana businesses, to support work aimed at intentionally repairing harms done to the black community from policies and practices in so many different areas,” an Evanston resident said.
Attitudes towards reparations for slavery in the United States tend to polarise the country, with whites highly against it while blacks tend to support the initiative. Those who support reparations say it is necessary to help redress the wrongs of slavery and racial discrimination.
In over a decade, the first congressional hearing on slavery reparations was held June 19 (Juneteenth), and as expected, the debate among the pro and against sides were rather interesting.