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Local News

Will County Board debates using marijuana tax revenue for reparations

The Will County Board Finance Committee discussed how it might decide to use tax revenue it generates from recreational marijuana sales at its Feb. 4, 2020 meeting.
The Will County Board Finance Committee discussed how it might decide to use tax revenue it generates from recreational marijuana sales at its Feb. 4, 2020 meeting.

Will County Board members debated a potential policy to use tax revenue generated from recreational marijuana sales for reparations at a meeting on Tuesday.

Member Rachel Ventura, D-Joliet, mentioned the issue at the Will County Board Finance Committee meeting. She floated the idea of using a portion of the tax revenue to help people who have been negatively affected by the War on Drugs.

Ventura suggested such a policy would permit residents who had been affected to apply for the money. A board or agency would determine which applicants the money would go to.

The money could be used for expenses like offsetting the costs of starting a business. She argued this type of initiative would "invest taxpayer dollars back into the community."

The Republican caucus raised red flags in a news release about the idea.

"We were against marijuana sales and the tax so now the only thing we can do is to make sure we are using those funds responsibly,” member Ray Tuminello, R-New Lenox, said in the release. “The county will have additional funds which could be used proactively by the (Will County) Health Department. We should not allow this tax to go toward reparations.”

Minority Leader Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, argued it was too early to discuss how the money could be used because the board was still unsure of just how much tax revenue will be generated.

Member Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, said he would want more specifics about who could benefit from such a program.

"I'm not so sure if you're going to say we're going to help people that were negatively impacted, then define what that is," he said during Tuesday's meeting.

Ventura said the county could simply use the parameters the state government established in its Restore, Reinvest and Renew grant program. That program was designed to "address the impact of economic disinvestment, violence and the historical overuse of the criminal justice system," according a state government summary of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.

Will County Assistant State's Attorney Philip Mock warned during Tuesday's meeting that state and county law limit what the board could do with the money. Ventura said she'd seek more specific answers about what those limits are.

While some Democrats on the committee voiced interest in the idea, Ventura tried to appeal to her other colleagues to work on a solution.

"Let's find a way so that if we've done something wrong in the past, we feel a law was unjust, that we right some of those wrongs," she said.

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