Illinois has reportedly collected a total of $62 million in cannabis tax funds to support impoverished neighborhoods in the state. However, some are getting frustrated because the money has not yet been spent to give back to the community. 

This is due to delays in the state’s system to grant new cannabis licenses, as well as many requesting a piece of the pie from the cannabis funding. Like many other aspects of bureaucracy since COVID-19 hit, the pandemic is also partially to blame for the delay. Still, many are eager to see the money get spent. 

“I’m certainly hoping those dollars get out as soon as possible,”  said state Sen. Heather Steans, who backed legalizing cannabis in Illinois from the beginning. “We did a lot to make this the most equitable cannabis system in the country. … We haven’t seen the results yet we wanted in any of those areas, so we obviously need to stay on it.”

The Funds And Where They’re Meant To Go

In 2020, the state collected more than $175 million in cannabis taxes. The breakdown of that gives 35 percent of the money to a General Fund for the state, 25 percent for community development, 20 percent to substance use and mental health programs, 10 percent to bills owed, 8 percent to local law enforcement, and 2 percent for education. From that breakdown, the $62 million that is to be divided evenly between the Cannabis Business Development Fund and the Restore, Reinvest and Renew Program has yet to be spent. 

The funding that is still in question is meant to help areas that experienced the most impact from the war on drugs, including shootings, poverty, and incarceration. The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority has been accepting requests for money since May of 2020, and has received a record 400 applications for disbursement. The norm is usually closer to 100.

“With the number of applications to be reviewed …it takes time to be thorough and to give each and every application the considerable care it deserves, particular through an equity lens — and that is what we are doing. It is an exciting process!” claimed spokeswoman Yolanda Joe.

Additionally, businesses in marginalized areas that are waiting for dispensary licenses are growing and more and more frustrated.

“The grace period the governor had in the beginning on cannabis has expired,” seconded Anton Seals Jr., CEO of OURS, a group that is still waiting to hear about their dispensary license.“People don’t want to hear all the hemming and hawing anymore.”

He also claimed that it is time for the state’s money to be used to reimburse application fees and costs due to the length of time it is taking to process, and that he hopes there is attention to who is getting the funds, and whether they are truly in need. 

“The state can’t just take people’s money while the industry is making money, but all the Black entrepreneurs get zero. We need real Black entrepreneurs in these communities, and for the rest of people of color, because we are in need the most.”

While the state of Illinois did a great job planning to allocate, and generate, tax revenue, it is now time for the state to get it dispensed, as residents grow increasingly more anxious.