SPRINGFIELD — Lotteries will be held July 29, Aug. 5 and Aug. 19 to choose who will get the next 185 licenses to operate recreational marijuana dispensaries in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday.
The Democratic governor also signed a bill into law designed to give minority applicants a better chance of receiving a license through the August lotteries.
And Pritzker announced that more than 200 people across the state will be offered licenses to open cannabis “craft grow” cultivation centers or operate specialty infusing and transportation businesses in the state’s expanding legal marijuana industry.
House Bill 1443 will make the first major changes to the 2019 law that legalized recreational use of marijuana for customers 21 and older and set in motion legal cannabis cultivation centers and dispensaries across Illinois.
Bill sponsor state Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, said the new law will reduce complaints from minority entrepreneurs who want to break into the almost all-white industry.
The legislation, he said, also is expected to result in the withdrawal of lawsuits over the way applications for the 75 licenses to be awarded in the delayed first lottery were evaluated by the state.
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“I hope that equity in the cannabis industry is a reality soon in Illinois,” Ford said in a news release. “We are all anxiously awaiting a new, diverse industry that includes people that have been locked up for cannabis-related issues and who have locked out of a billion-dollar, emerging industry. I applaud Gov. Pritzker for signing this legislation and for his promise to ensure that the new cannabis industry includes Black and brown people in Illinois.”
Willie “JR” Fleming, a Chicago-based cannabis entrepreneur who runs a trade association for cannabis social-equity applicants, said he was happy about the signing of HB 1443.
“We will create economic growth,” he said.
Pritzker said his administration wants to provide Illinois residents from diverse backgrounds “equitable access” to the cannabis industry.
“Over the past century, the failed war on drugs has destroyed families, filled prisons with nonviolent offenders and disproportionately disrupted Black and brown communities,” the governor said.
“Legalizing adult-use cannabis brought about an important change, and this latest piece of legislation helps move us even closer to our goal of establishing a cannabis industry in Illinois that doesn’t shy away from the pain caused by the war on drugs, but instead centers (on) equity and community reinvestment as the key to moving forward,” he said.
After the July 29 lottery to determine winners among top-scoring applicants for the 75 licenses, the new law will set up lotteries for awarding the next 110 licenses, in equal batches, that would make “social-equity” applicants more likely to qualify.
Social-equity applicants include entrepreneurs from low-income neighborhoods or who have been arrested on marijuana charges or had immediate family members who had been arrested.
Applicants for the 110 licenses now can qualify for a lottery if they scored 85% or better on state criteria, rather than the perfect scores required previously.
The law also will allow existing dispensaries to move within a municipality with that municipality’s approval.
And the law will make ownership data for the 110 future licenses public, which is a change from the secrecy allowed under the original law.
The new dispensary licenses awarded will allow for three more dispensary licenses in a region consisting of Sangamon and Menard counties.
Three additional licenses will be granted for a west-central Illinois region that includes Christian, Logan, Mason, Montgomery, Morgan and Schuyler counties.
Three more licenses will be allowed in a multi-county region of Illinois near St. Louis that includes Macoupin and Jersey counties.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture on Thursday issued notifications to successful applicants who are eligible to receive one of 213 total licenses — 40 craft grow licenses, 32 infuser licenses and 141 licenses to transport products between craft grow facilities and dispensaries.
Pritzker said all of the 213 people and businesses eligible for the licenses are social-equity applicants. At least 98 of the applicants are Black-owned and 19 are Latinx-owned, Pritzker’s office said.
Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, one of the original cannabis law’s sponsors, said in Pritzker’s release: “From the very beginning, we sought to create the most diverse and equitable cannabis industry in the world, knowing that we had no bread crumbs to follow or examples of any state that had figured it out. The announcement of these demographics for the craft grow, infuser and transportation licenses are proof that what we can accomplish is only limited by how hard we are willing to work.”
Craft grow and infuser applicants have 10 business days to tell the state whether they want a license and submit the required fee and documents.
Transporter applicants have until February to confirm their interest and receive a license.
Pritzker’s office said the state will reveal the identities of successful applicants “upon confirmation of their submission of the required documentation and fees.”