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State Of Illinois Asks Public To Help Identify Community Organizations That Will Receive Grants For Marijuana Revenues

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Nearly $2.5 billion has poured into Illinois since recreational marijuana became legal in 2020, and with every sale, part of the tax goes to help fund community organizations.

As CBS 2's Marie Saavedra reported Thursday night, you can play a role in deciding which groups get the money.

One community group that has benefited from marijuana proceeds is the Chicago Youth Boxing Club in Little Village, where the consistent percussion of gloves hitting bags, and gloves hitting each other, is a symphony to Gabriel Navarro.

"To me, it's exciting," he said. "It means there's kids in the ring, sparring; there's kids in the bags hitting the bags."

There are kids everywhere at Chicago Youth Boxing Club at La Villita Community Church, 2300 S. Millard Ave. Many of them are using new gear, courtesy of cannabis.

The state awarded the gym $40,000 in grants from its 25 percent cut of marijuana sales tax. It's called Restore, Reinvest, Renew, or R3, and the cash goes to community groups in areas with high rates of gun violence and unemployment.

"So we were able to buy real decent gloves with R3. We were able to hire more coaches," Navarro said. "We stay open longer, and that's good for the neighborhood."

The gym received its first round of money in 2021, but the state is doing something different in 2022 – changing the way it decides which community groups get what.

"There is a priority and a centering around community and around equity," said Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority acting executive director Delrice Adams.

After a soft launch last year, the state is now putting out a public call for volunteers from the at-risk neighborhoods it has identified to help select the grant winners from those same neighborhoods.

"It is so important to have that voice of those that are most impacted come into play, and so this was a great way to do that," Adams said.

Volunteers will be trained on what it takes to be awarded, while making the decisions from a place of knowing what their own blocks need. An online application holds the power to put taxpayer money in the hands of groups desperate for it – like the Chicago Youth Boxing Club.

"We bought some treadmills," Navarro said. "They're not here yet."

New equipment's from R3 money is still arriving at the gym, to bring boxing to even more kids.

The deadline to apply for an R3 grant for 2022 is March 1. Volunteers will review the applications over the next six weeks. To apply to review the grant applications from your neighborhood, visit this link.

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