Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Spotlighting (and following) the social equity and justice provisions in new Illinois “Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act”
As everyone likely knows by now, Illinois this week became the eleventh state to fully legalize adult use of marijuana and the first state to do so with regulated sales through the regular legislative process. But what I did not full realize until reading this local press article, headlined “Countdown begins to Jan. 1 after Pritzker signs bill making marijuana legal in Illinois,” are all the particulars of the major social equity and justice provisions in the new law. Here are the basics:
The most unusual and far-reaching aspect of the bill is its “social equity” component. It calls for 25% of tax money for grants to fund neighborhood improvement projects in poor minority areas. Proposals are to be chosen by a board led by Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton.
In addition, anyone with a marijuana arrest for under 30 grams would have the case automatically cleared, while the governor will pardon convictions for up to 30 grams. Prosecutors and individuals may petition the courts to expunge convictions for amounts between 30 and 500 grams.
The state will also provide lower licensing fees, low-interest loans and preference in awarding licenses to social equity applicants, defined as those from areas most affected by the war on drugs, or having criminal records eligible for expungement.
“What we are doing here is about reparations,” state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, a Democrat from Peoria, said. “Black and brown people have been put at the very center of this policy.”
Regular readers know that I think marijuana reform can and should be an impactful form of criminal justice reform, and I have authored an article, “Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices,” which urges jurisdictions to earmark a portion of marijuana revenues to devote to improving the criminal justice system. In my article, I specifically advocate for the creation of a new criminal justice institution, which I call a Commission on Justice Restoration, to be funded by the taxes, fees and other revenues generated by marijuana reforms and to be tasked with proactively working on policies and practices designed to minimize and ameliorate undue collateral consequences for all people with past criminal convictions. Though Illinois has not quite created a new criminal justice infrastructure through its “Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act,” it merits a good star in my book for achieving more on this front than any other jurisdiction to date.
But, as wise folks say in a variety of settings, effective implementation of the law can often be even more important than its initial reform. Anyone and everyone seriously interesting in social equity and justice should be seriously interested in following how this law plays out in the months and years ahead.
Prior related posts:
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