Illinois regulators announced Sept. 3 that the long-delayed next round of cannabis dispensary licenses will be awarded later this month, when 21 social equity applicants will be included in a lottery to win the 75 licenses, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report.
The 21 applicants, chosen from 1,667 total applications submitted, all received perfect scores and all qualify as social equity applicants, the news outlet reported.
Seventeen of the applicants included in the lottery have at least one minority owner, 13 are majority owned by people of color and 16 have at least one female owner, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Roughly two-thirds of the applicants qualified because at least one person listed on the application has lived in an area disproportionately impacted by prohibition for five of the last 10 years, the news outlet reported, and the remaining applicants met other qualifications, such as being majority owned by individuals who have been arrested for or convicted of an expungable cannabis-related offense.
Those awarded licenses will be able to open up to 10 dispensary locations, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Some of the applicants that qualified for the lottery share the same owners, the news outlet reported, and the system has drawn some criticism from those who have been denied access to the lottery.
“That doesn’t sound to me like social equity,” Michael Malcolm, a real estate broker from Morgan Park who submitted 10 applications across multiple regions that were ultimately denied, told the news outlet. “That sounds like big business. It’s a bit of a shock right now.”
“Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s … supposedly created a system that prioritizes social equity applicants, but what really was prioritized?” Vincent E. Norment, founder of Marijuana Hall of Fame and CMO of Parkway Dispensary, told Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary. “It didn’t identify or represent race as one of the deciding factors, but it did identify social equity as one, [although] that only gave white men who had been convicted by the war on drugs a push to the front of the line automatically. Most likely, lawsuits are coming. My group is looking into investing in the winner, as well.”
The dispensary licenses were originally set to be issued May 1, but have been delayed several times due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
When the licenses are ultimately issued, they will be conditional and contingent upon the applicants meeting certain requirements, including social equity provisions, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The state also plans to issue craft grow, infuser and transporter licenses, which were also delayed due to the pandemic, and then Toi Hutchinson, the governor’s cannabis adviser, said the state will conduct a disparity study to gain a better understanding of the state’s cannabis industry and any issues that exist, the news outlet reported.