Rockford to award tax revenue from marijuana sales to minority communities

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Over the last year and a half, recreational marijuana sales have generated millions in tax revenue for the State of Illinois.

A local tax means the City of Rockford will benefit, too.

The newly approved Rockford REGROW (Reinvest, Energize, Give, Restore Opportunity, Win) grant program is aimed at helping minority communities impacted by the War on Drugs.

Those communities are mostly black Americans, according to the NAACP:

  • Black Americans represent 13% of the population in the U.S. and about the same percentage of drug users, but they represent 44% of those incarcerated for drug crimes.
  • Today, there are more people behind bars for nonviolent drug offenses than were incarcerated for all crimes, violent or otherwise, in 1970.
  • The penalty for possessing crack cocaine is about 18 times more than possessing powdered cocaine. The only difference being that crack cocaine contains baking soda and water.
  • Today, 2.7 million children in America have a parent behind bars. These children are more likely to be incarcerated during their lifetime than other children.

In an effort to offset economic effect of the War on Drugs on the black community, the City hopes tax funds collected from legal drugs will go toward local youth programs, communities impacted by gun violence, and promoting employment opportunities.

“We are allowing community entities and organizations to define for themselves what’s going to be effective,” said Anqunette Parham, the executive director for the City’s Health and Human Services department. “And, of course, there are measures that they will have to lay out and prove [where the money will go] and there will be evaluations, as part of this grant process. However, there is latitude in terms of creativity of what can actually be funded.”

The City has a 3% tax on all adult-use cannabis sales, which has collected $400,000 in the first year.

On Monday, the City Council approved the program, opening it up for both non-profit and for-profit organizations.

The application period opens on July 1st. The deadline to apply is July 31st. The City says it will hold a Facebook Live on July 1st providing more details on the application process.

During the initial round, five organizations will be awarded $10,000 a piece.

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