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State begins accepting second round of grant applications to tap money generated by taxing cannabis sales

Grants will go toward groups seeking to provide legal aid, economic development, re-entry from the criminal justice system, violence prevention and youth development.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces Wednesday that applications will begin being accepted for grant money generated from the sale of cannabis.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces Wednesday that applications will begin being accepted for grant money generated from the sale of cannabis.
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Illinois will begin accepting applications for a chunk of $45 million in grant money generated through taxing marijuana sales that will seek to lift up communities damaged by the war on drugs prior to the state’s legalization of cannabis, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday.

“Today we launch applications for the second round of R3 grants,” Pritzker said, referring to the Restore, Reinvest and Renew program. “I know our recipients will be transforming lives with their work and in turn transforming our cities and our entire state.”

Grants will go toward providing civil legal aid, economic development, re-entry from the criminal justice system, violence prevention and youth development.

The money will target communities adversely affected by disinvestment, violence and drug war-era policies that disproportionately impacted minority communities.

“That brings R3 impact so far to $80 million in just the first year of that program, and there is much more to come,” Pritzker said at a news conference Wednesday at a South Lawndale church. “We are prioritizing investments in communities that were previously harmed for what is now legal.”

The program gets a quarter of the excise taxes and fees on cannabis sales after administrative and expungement costs are covered and serves as a cornerstone of Pritzker’s plan to use cannabis legalization to create social equity and advance restorative justice efforts.

The program got off to a slow start that state officials attributed to receiving a deluge of grant applications. But in January, over a year after recreational weed was legalized, that money began to flow to local governments, businesses, nonprofits and other organizations.

On Wednesday, Pritzker highlighted the work of the Chicago Youth Boxing Club, which has benefitted from the program in the past.

According to its mission statement, the South Lawndale boxing club seeks to “provide a positive and healthy environment for Chicago’s inner city youth; instilling positive and productive skills, and discipline, through boxing and team environment.”

David Babb, who heads up the boxing club, said the club served an average of 110 people a day over the summer, mostly between the ages of eight and 21.

“Not all our youth will go on to a career in boxing, but they go on in life. We help prepare them for whatever their journey may be,” he said.

Pritzker said the boxing program gives kids “a foundation of empowerment by providing a safe outlet of achievement and connection and wellness, disrupting the idea that the neighborhood they call home is somehow limiting their possibilities.”