SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The Pritzker administration will distribute $31.5 million in grants to groups in disadvantaged areas across Illinois following a successful first year of recreational marijuana sales. This was possible through the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program created by the law which legalized adult-use cannabis last year.
25% of marijuana tax revenue will help communities struggling with disinvestment, violence, and disproportionate impacts created by the war on drugs. Groups will focus funding on economic development, violence prevention, youth development, re-entry services, and civil legal aid. Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton says it was critical to have citizens with lived experiences on the board responsible for the grants.
"It was important to go into communities and make sure that they knew what this process was about and to make sure that their voices were a part of making sure that this is the most equity-centric, not just legislation, but R3 program that could have ever existed," Stratton said.
Addressing wrongs of the past
Gov. JB Pritzker and Stratton previously campaigned on a message of equity. Today, Pritzker called the progress with the first round of grants awarded "terrific."
"I'm elated," Pritzker said. "I have to say the Lt. Governor did a terrific job leading the R3 board making sure we're getting those grants to the right places and the right people in disadvantaged communities to address those wrongs."
Some of the programs could help incarcerated people re-enter the community by providing opportunities for housing and healthcare. For example, Stratton explained a program in Marion will receive a grant through Luthern Social Services to help inmates record stories for their children.
"They can keep that connection between parent and child, despite the parent being incarcerated," Stratton added. "Then, Lutheran Social Services will provide a caseworker to work with that individual and make sure that can get services upon their return like access to public services, food, and clothing."
Justice, Equity, and Opportunity
Stratton said each project will help adults in need while also changing the trajectory for their children. She explained the Justice, Equity, and Opportunity Initiative helped to ensure fairness throughout the application review process.
"It was incredibly exciting to see that grant-making in and of itself could also be equitable," Stratton said. "We can think about it in an innovative way. I don't think there's any other state that has done grant-making like this. We hope it will be a model for other states to follow."
The state's Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) received nearly 400 applications for the 80 grants. However, Stratton stressed applicants can re-apply if they missed out in the first round. ICJIA staff can also help organizations improve their applications if they struggled with technical issues.
"Lt. Gov. Stratton and I will continue to ensure equity is a top priority as the cannabis program moves forward," Pritzker said.
The list of R3 grant award winners can be found here.