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Illinois sitting on $62 million in cannabis revenue meant to foster businesses and help neighborhoods hurt by poverty and violence

Despite promises that cannabis legalization in Illinois would fund more minority business participation and neighborhood improvements, the state has yet to spend $62 million collected for those purposes.

Part of the delay in awarding the money is due to problems with the state’s system to award new cannabis business licenses. The other reason for the holdup, officials say, is because of an outpouring of requests for funding.

The lack of help for communities and entrepreneurs who need it badly is another reason for state officials to issue new licenses as soon as they can, said state Sen. Heather Steans, co-sponsor of the law that legalized marijuana and taxed it to help people in the state’s most desperate areas.

“I’m certainly hoping those dollars get out as soon as possible,” Steans said. “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.”

Through December, the Department of Revenue collected more than $175 million in taxes from recreational marijuana sales. From the proceeds, 35% goes to the state’s General Fund, 25% for community development, 20% for substance abuse treatment and prevention and mental health, 10% to the state’s backlog of bills, 8% to local law enforcement and 2% for education and collecting data on the health effects of legal pot. [Read more at Chicago Tribune]

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