Evanston Votes to Fund Racial Equity Policy Through Cannabis Tax

In 5 days, Governor Pritzker’s marijuana legislation will take into effect in Illinois. For some cities, marijuana sales have been banned. For others, it has become an opportunity to address a historic problem. Statistically, African-Americans have been disproportionately targeted criminally by the law.

This social inequity hasn’t been ignored, despite the decriminalization of marijuana. On December 2, 2019, the Washington Post reported on a local town hall’s focus on this social inequity. The City of Evanston, a wealthy North Shore suburb, recently voted to fund race-based reparations for African-American residents.

Despite being home to one of the largest African-American communities, Evanston’s African-American residents have long been strained by redlining, high property taxes, and predatory lending practices. However, the city – known to be a pioneer for social equity – will look to provide its African-American community with the economic resources to continue living and working in Evanston, funding the policy through the city’s tax on marijuana sales.

The policy, Robin Rue Simmons, Alderman of the city’s Fifth Ward, “stems from the idea that African Americans should disproportionately benefit from the sale of cannabis…because they have been disproportionately affected by the policing of marijuana – both nationally and locally.”

How the expected economic resources will be delivered is still in question. Alderman Simmons suggested, for example, that families that qualify may receive assistance on making a down payment when purchasing a home, or, long-time homeowners in the city may have their home repairs paid for by the city.

Indeed, the bill is progressive and will face technical difficulties in execution, but we think it’s brilliant. We will be sure to keep an eye on Evanston’s implementation of this new policy next year, and report on its effects.