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Town officials vote to use marijuana tax for slavery reparations program

Evanston Live TV
(Screengrab — Ald. Robin Rue Simmons)

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Liberals are beginning to capitalize on what has long been a conservative principle, that being that all government should be local.

Just last week the town of Brookline, Mass., just outside of Boston, voted to allow 16-year-olds to vote in municipal elections and is seeking approval from the state An Illinois town is also implementing its own reparations program for black residents.

The race-based program intended to address lingering institutional effects of slavery and discrimination is to be funded by sales tax from legal weed, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The Democrat-led Illinois General Assembly passed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana in the state in May, and the law goes into effect on Jan, 1, 2020. Liberals in the town of Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, then voted to appropriate tax money from marijuana sales to “invest” in a dwindling black population.

(The black population dropped from 22.5 percent in 2000 to just under 17 percent in 2017.)

“We can implement funding to directly invest in black Evanston,” said Ald. Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward.

Simmons, an African American, proposed the reparations bill and a committee is now looking at how to support black residents. Included in the proposed ideas are property tax relief, home repair and rehabilitation help, down payment and rental assistance to qualified residents.

The alderman said weed tax was especially appropriate, as many black residents were victims of the “war on drugs” and spent time in jail for smoking marijuana, according to the Tribune.

Simmons said the marijuana tax will “be invested in the community it unfairly policed and damaged.”

The reparations fund will reportedly be capped at $10 million and the city of Evanston estimates that the marijuana tax could generate $500,000 to $750,000 per year.

The Tribune noted that Simmons was “frustrated by the lack of action at the national level” when it comes to slavery reparations, and believes a local reparations program could gain traction quickly and have a more immediate impact.

At the state level, black lawmakers in New Jersey introduced a bill establishing a task force to examine its role in slavery and racial disparity that may have resulted from it. The legislation would potentially lead to paying reparations to black residents.

Several Democratic 2020 presidential candidates back reparations, including front-runner Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has expressed support for reparations.

Warren said in a statement back in February: “We must confront the dark history of slavery and government-sanctioned discrimination in this country that has had many consequences including undermining the ability of Black families to build wealth in America for generations.”

Fading candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has also supported reparations, as has former Obama administration HUD Secretary Julián Castro.

As for the town of Brookline, not only does the town want to allow teenagers to vote, it will also let them serve as town officials, according to CBS Boston.

“At the age of 16, they can start working and paying taxes on that work,” said board member Raul Fernandez. “There’s no reason why these young people should not have a say in our politics and actually giving them a say in our politics will make us even better.”

Tom Tillison

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