| Rockford Register Star
ROCKFORD — Revenue generated by a 3% tax on the sale of recreational cannabis will be spent in areas of the city disproportionately impacted by marijuana laws, under a resolution approved by the City Council.
Aldermen created a cannabis fund designed to support programs for economic and business development, education, job training and youth programming.
“I believe it’s absolutely a good idea,” Alderwoman Venita Hervey, D-5, said. “If we’re going to sell marijuana, then let’s make some of that sales tax money go toward something that can fix some of the harms in the community. It’s a fact that certain communities in every city — and in Rockford it was the African American community and, in some aspects, the Latino community — were disproportionately hit by law enforcement for cannabis offenses.”
The sale of recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020. Rockford has two dispensaries that are licensed to sell cannabis for recreational purposes.
It’s still unclear how much revenue the 3% tax will generate for Rockford, according to City Administrator Todd Cagnoni.
“The state prohibits us from providing sales tax figures for individual businesses,” Cagnoni said. “However, we anticipate the city will collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue each year from the sale of recreational marijuana.”
Although no programs or initiatives have been identified, city staff believes the cannabis fund will help the city’s efforts to invest in underserved areas and disadvantaged individuals.
Specific spending proposals for the fund must be authorized by City Council.
“When we see the direction of the country as far as legalizing marijuana, we can right the wrongs of some of the draconian effects of the failed war on drugs over the past 40 to 50 years,” Alderman Jonathan Logemann, D-2, said. “I think that’s important public policy, and I think it’s smart public policy.”
City Council vote on the creation of the cannabis fund was not unanimous.
Linda McNeely, D-13, and Tim Durkee, R-1, voted “no”.
“The ordinance is vague. It’s like throwing everything against the wall and everything sticks,” Durkee said. “There’s a lot of social services. There’s a lot of money flowing into Rockford for these things that are already in existence and I’m not so sure expanding them is good for the city. I’d rather see the city reinvest in itself and reinvest in economic development, which provides far more opportunities for folks, especially in some of the challenged areas that we have.”
Durkee also suggested that the city needs to funnel more resources toward its pension obligations.
The creation of the cannabis fund is consistent with the state act that legalized recreational marijuana and its provisions to set aside funds for those areas of the city disproportionately impacted by marijuana laws, city officials said.
Hervey said she’ll advocate using a portion of the money job training.
“Some cities have programs where they offer to pay the first three months or six months of a person’s salary without a lot of bureaucracy if employers are willing to give some of these folks who are ex-offenders a chance,” Hervey said. “We’re going to try and make an impact in areas of our city that were negatively impacted by marijuana crime enforcement. We’re going to try and fix some of that.”
Ken DeCoster: firstname.lastname@example.org; @DeCosterKen