Illinois is distributing $31.5 million collected through cannabis tax revenues as part of the state’s commitment to social equity and restorative justice.

Illinois’ legal marijuana market launched on January 1, 2020, and has so far seen sales of more than $1 billion, including medical cannabis products. The state’s marijuana legalization legislation stipulates 25 percent of cannabis tax revenues are allocated to Illinois’ Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program, which is administered by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA).

R3 funds services such as youth development, community reintegration, access to capital and legal support that benefit communities most harmed by cannabis prohibition. Of the total funding available, $28.3 million is allocated to service delivery with the remaining $3.1 million reserved for “assessment and planning initiatives.”

Out of nearly 400 funding applications, the R3 board, chaired by Illinois Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton, selected 80 organizations. These include community groups, minority-owned businesses, local municipalities and faith-based organizations. Gov. Stratton commended the decision-making process behind the grant allocations and said it could become a model for other states to follow.

“The R3 program will tackle chronic problems that have gone unaddressed for far too long in our under-served neighborhoods,” Stratton said in a press release. “The collaboration between the Justice, Equity, and Opportunity Initiative and ICJIA is innovative and reinvents the grant process with community inclusion and promotes a standard for equity and success that other states will hopefully take note of and emulate.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who signed Illinois’ Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA) into law in 2019, echoed Stratton’s praise and commitment to prioritizing equity in the legal cannabis industry.

“By awarding this first round of R3 grants, we are taking another important step toward undoing the harms of the past, and Lt. Governor Stratton and I will continue to ensure equity is a top priority as the cannabis program moves forward,” he said.

As part of the grant selection process, the R3 board looked at unemployment figures, incidences of gun violence, poverty levels and incarceration rates, among other data sources, in order to determine where funding would have the greatest impact. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity also helped designate eligible “R3 zones” for funding.

Examples of successful applicants include the Chicago Urban League and the Safer Foundation which will use their grants to invest in the economic development of under-served neighborhoods. The Chicago Torture Justice Center will put its money to work helping formerly incarcerated individuals reintegrate into the community, as well as support victims of police brutality. Another – Communities United – was approved funding on the basis of its work providing access to legal aid for low-income people, especially on the issue of tenancy rights. Municipalities that secured funding include Springfield, Illinois’ capital city, which received $80,000, and Rockford which got $520,790.

Illinois’ R3 program isn’t the only tool the state has used to promote social equity and restorative justice in the post-prohibition era. Gov. Pritzker announced his administration has now processed more than half a million expungements and pardons for individuals with cannabis-related convictions on their criminal records. To further support this process, Illinois state officials recently established a new program to provide legal aid for people looking to have their marijuana convictions expunged.