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Joliet debates uses for cannabis tax

Joliet is trying to clarify what to do with local cannabis tax money – however much it is.

The city collects a 3% tax from sales of recreational cannabis at the two dispensaries in Joliet. What that amounts to nobody knows except for certain people at city hall because of state law restricting disclosure of sales tax revenue from individual stores.

Whatever it amounts to, there is a push to spend a portion of it to compensate communities considered to have been adversely affected by past criminal drug laws and policies.

Garland Mays, president of the Fairmont Neighborhood Council, has been urging the city to put cannabis tax money into programs and services for people in low-income neighborhoods in City Council Districts 4 and 5.

“Those districts really could use the money,” Mays told the City Council at its meeting Tuesday.

Mays said he was concerned that the city would use cannabis tax money instead to buy body cameras for police.

“Yes, the city needs body cameras. There’s no doubt about it,” Mays said. “But you can’t take from Peter to pay Paul on this.”

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said he wanted the matter addressed at the next council meetings but primarily to clarify what the law requires on disclosure of local cannabis tax revenue. The council meets again on May 17 and 18.

Finance Director James Ghedotte said he has been directed by the Illinois Department of Revenue that he cannot disclose the local cannabis tax revenue.

“It’s state law,” Ghedotte said. “We cannot disclose the amount of marijuana money we get.”

Ghedotte said state law bars disclosure if there are fewer than five dispensaries in a city. The purpose of the law is to prevent competitors from determining business sales, which are considered proprietary information, by examining sales tax data.

Joliet while reporting sales tax revenue in the city does not make public sales taxes from individual businesses. The difference with the cannabis tax is that it applies to only two businesses in the city, so the total amount has not been disclosed.

Meanwhile, the council members from Districts 4 and 5 say the city should come up with a plan for cannabis tax revenue.

“It doesn’t matter how much money we received from the tax,” District 5 Councilman Terry Morris said. “Put a portion of it back into the community that was affected by the drugs.”

District 4 Councilwoman Bettye Gavin said she wants the community involved in developing a plan for cannabis tax revenue.

“We can figure out what the dollars are later,” she said.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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