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NAACP, others worried about equity versus profit in marijuana bills

“There is nobody in this room that can stop the growth of the cannabis industry,” claimed State Senator Toi Hutchinson Wednesday.

That statement made in front of a packed meeting room in Springfield, discussing the if and how of recreational marijuana.

“I think that an agreement can be struck,” quipped McLean County State Senator Jason Barickman, “so long as we balance the public’s expectations of how this may become law with some of the priorities we’ve expressed here today.”

First among those priorities, according to Hutchinson, is equity and assisting those negatively impacted by previous marijuana convictions.

“You cannot legalize or provide an ability for an industry to make millions of dollars, while you have folks simultaneously handling the repercussions of the prohibition of that same activity,” she said.

Facing a deadline of May 31st, a lot of specifics are still up in the air.

But, there were numbers to go off of wen it comes to dispersal of tax revenue:

  • 35% would go towards the State’s general fund
  • 10% would go towards unpaid bills
  • 25% would go towards helping neighborhoods and families directly impacted by previous marijuana charges
  • 20% would go towards mental health and substance-abuse rehabilitation programs.
  • 8% would go towards law enforcement payments
  • 2% would go towards State public education

All this talk of revenue raised questions from local outreach groups of what the true purpose of the bill is.

“Powerful white men like me have been opposed to recreational drugs,” explained Program Director for JOLT Harm Reduction Chris Schaffner. “But now that we can make lots of money selling it legally, we seem to be changing our attitudes about it. I’d love to see some equity there.”

The Illinois NAACP agreed, saying proposed measures don’t do enough to ensure those who would use marijuana aren’t discriminated against.

The bill hasn’t even been passed out of executive committee.

A significant amount of the Governor’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year was written to include and spend marijuana tax revenue.

Mason Dowling

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