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Reparations approved in Evanston, Ill.

First city in the country to approve reparations

Lisa Olivia Fitch | 12/12/2019, midnight

Marijuana will be legalized in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020 and the city of Evanston, a suburb of Chicago and home to the main campus of Northwestern University, will spend tax revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana to establish a reparations program for African Americans who live there.

The city’s aldermen passed the program by a vote of 8 to 1 on Nov. 27, making it the first city in the country to approve a reparations program. Once established, it will provide job training and other benefits to assist Evanston’s Black residents, who make up nearly 23 percent of the city’s population.

“Money will be invested in the community that the war on drugs… unfairly policed and damaged,” said Fifth Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, who also believes that Blacks in Evanston have suffered from redlining and the money will help change things.

Simmons told WBEZ Radio in Chicago that she believes cannabis tax revenue is an appropriate source of funding for reparations because the city has a history of disproportionately arresting Black residents for marijuana possession.

The new rehabilitative reparation fund will be capped at $10 million. The city’s website states that “This is not a settlement, but an opportunity to mitigate some historical damages.”

Evanston’s Equity & Empowerment Commission is working on a long-term truth and reconciliation initiative that will acknowledge and tell the truth about past wrongs created by individual and institutional racism and address the present consequences.

Adults 21 and older will be able to purchase marijuana from licensed sellers in Illinois and use it beginning on New Years Day. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the legislation in August, making his state the 10th to legalize marijuana.