Low tax revenue from legal marijuana sales could impact Evanston's reparations programs

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- With lower than expected revenue from cannabis sales in Evanston, some city officials are concerned about the possible long term impact on the city's reparations fund. The fund is supported by tax revenue from legal marijuana and donations.

"My concern is for the folks that are direct survivors, as we call them ancestors in our ordinance, those folks are over seventy and we can't wait to provide justice to those folks," said Alderman Devon Reid.

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Back in 2019, the Evanston City Council voted to create the reparations fund. The city pledged to distribute millions of dollars over 10 years. But with just one cannabis dispensary, Reid worries keeping that promise will be a challenge.

"The expectation for most residents is that we would have $10 million in the first ten years and our cannabis revenue isn't showing that kind of progress," he said.

Reid has put forth proposals to support the reparations fund, including a tax on lakefront properties and transferring $5 million from the general fund.

"It is critical that we don't just rely on cannabis tax dollars, as revolutionary as that is and was, we have to expand the revenue supporting our reparations fund," he said.

Earlier this year the City of Evanston announced its first group of recipients for its first reparations program, focused on housing.

Lifelong Evanston resident Ramona Burton was one of 16 awarded a $25,000 grant for a home-related costs. Burton is using the grant for home repairs.

"I wouldn't have been able to afford to do any of these things without the reparations," she said.

Burton said she wants as many people as possible to benefit from the reparations program.

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"I have concerned for the people who have applied that are hoping their name gets pulled," she said.

Alderman Reid is also looking to expand the reparations program to include direct cash payments to allow eligible Black residents to spend the money how they wish.

He predicts the city council could decide on all of his proposals by the end of the summer.
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