Laudably, when Illinois legalized the recreational use of cannabis, it also sought to repair the damage wrought by the War on Drugs (WOD) through its social-equity initiatives. That harm included excessive and disproportionate incarceration in communities of color, over-policing within those communities, and all of the social and economic harms implicit in those realities. This harm necessarily creates intergenerational harm, as parents and children lose necessary pillars of support. Moreover, compelling evidence suggests that the progenitors of the WOD intended this harm. Measured against this historic social injustice, the social equity efforts in Illinois fail to secure a material unwinding of the WOD harms. Illinois needs a broader approach to ending the War on Drugs beyond cannabis. Treatment should displace criminalization for narcotics. Expungements should become automatic and more widely available. The state should immediately issue more social-equity licenses in affected communities. Investment of revenues from cannabis and other decriminalized drugs in affected communities should continue.
Andre Douglas Pond Cummings & Steven A. Ramirez, The Illinois Cannabis Social-Equity Program: Toward a Socially Just Peace in the War on Drugs?, 53 LOY. U. CHI. L.J. 793 (2022).