53 pot shop lottery winners announced, including some new players, some with deep ties to existing industry
Following a year of acrimony and delays, state officials on Wednesday announced that 53 firms entered in the state’s first pot shop lottery had earned the rights to 55 lucrative licenses.
The winners, selected from 626 finalists, include some firms already linked to the state’s pot industry and what appears to be a host of new players. Two more lottery drawings for 130 additional licenses will be held next month, giving other firms in the pool of over 900 total applicants more opportunities to score.
Toi Hutchinson, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s chief cannabis adviser, touted Wednesday’s results as a major step forward in the state’s efforts to create racial equity in the white-dominated weed business.
“Illinois has taken the most comprehensive approach in the country to putting social justice at the heart of cannabis legalization, and today is an important day in expanding the diversity of the industry– on top of all the work we’ve already done to expunge convictions and investing tens of millions of cannabis revenue into the communities hit hardest by the war on drugs,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing businesses get off the ground and into this space.”
Former state Sen. Rickey Hendon spent much of the past year advocating for himself and other social equity applicants, a designation created to bolster minority ownership in the industry. On Thursday, all the fighting paid off. His company, Westside Visionaries LLC, scored a sought after license in a region that covers Chicago.
“My daughter had me crying on the phone. We’re one of them praying families,” Hendon said. “Everybody’s just elated that we got a chance.”
Hendon led the charge last year when a group of social equity applicants pushed back against the state’s announcement that just 21 firms had qualified for a long-delayed lottery for 75 of the upcoming licenses, some of which included clouted and deep-pocketed individuals. Amid protest and lawsuits, Pritzker bowed to the pressure and announced a supplementary scoring process to expand the pool, which has now jumped to 133 groups.
Hendon and his ad-hoc coalition later teamed up to help draft legislation that Pritzker signed, creating Wednesday’s lottery and another Aug. 5 for 55 more licenses. The final lottery for the delayed permits will then happen Aug. 19.
For Vincent Norment, Wednesday’s announcement was bittersweet.
His group, Parkway Dispensary LLC, won a license in a region around Danville, but infighting with his partners had already created an irreparable internal rift. After another company they started earned one of the 40 craft cultivation licenses awarded this month, he said his colleagues moved to force him out.
Norment now plans to sell his shares in the startups for up to $3 million.
“I’m excited on one part, and I’m disappointed that these guys didn’t respect who I was and my worth and all that I contribute,” he said.
Though new players like Hendon and Norment are now getting a chance to profit, some of Wednesday’s winners include some of the first people in Illinois to cash in on legal cannabis.
EarthMed, which already operates dispensaries in Addison and Rosemont, was named one of the winners in a region that includes Chicago. And Clean Slate OPCO LLC, a company tied to Matt Estep, the co-founder of the Chicago pot giant Green Thumb Industries, was the only winner in a region that covers the Decatur area.
Another group led by Jeffrey Rehberger, the chief executive of the video gambling company Lucky Lincoln Gaming, notched a win in a region near St. Louis, Missouri.
While the state was able to announce Wednesday’s winners, the licenses were temporarily put on hold after a Cook County judge issued a last-minute order in a lawsuit filed last year in Cook County.
The suit, brought by two firms that qualified for the first two lotteries, holds that awarding extra application points to veterans creates a special applicant class. Judge Moshe Jacobius ruled Wednesday that the first two drawings can proceed and the winners can be published, but the licenses can’t be issued before an Aug. 9 hearing is held.
One of the firms that filed suit, HAAAYY LLC, also won the rights to a license in the Chicago region.
A list of the license winners can be found here.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.