Illinois Social Equity Cannabis Licensing Could Begin Next Month

Illinois Social Equity Cannabis Licensing Could Begin Next Month

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 16:06
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Illinois officials say the state is almost ready to begin awarding social equity cannabis licenses after Gov. J.B. Pritzker suspended the process in late April due to the pandemic-prompted shutdown.

Social equity cannabis licenses in Illinois could be awarded as soon as next month after Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) suspended moving forward with the licenses in late April indefinitely amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Block Club Chicago. The report notes that some businesses may have to wait as long as August to receive one of the 75 licenses.

Toi Hutchinson, a former state senator who oversees the cannabis program, told the Cook County Cannabis Commission that the delay is necessary to make sure licenses are issued correctly and in an effort to avoid lawsuits that may arise from applicants that lose out.

To qualify for social equity status, at least 51 percent of an ownership group applying for the license must live in an area most impacted by the war on drugs, been arrested or had a family member arrested for a cannabis-related crime; or have 10 or more full-time employees of which at least 51 percent would otherwise qualify for social equity status.

Hutchinson said that in addition to the pandemic, the company in charge of grading the applications – K.P.M.G – prohibited its employees from travelling, “which really slowed down everything on the dispensary side,” he said.

Regulators also had to find a fix for the tiebreaker system, which expired on June 6. Hutchinson filed permanent tie-breaker rules on June 5, requiring a 45-day public comment period starting on June 15, and another 45-day period for state officials to respond to the comments.

Charity Greene, a spokeswoman for Pritzker, said the first licenses would likely be awarded to businesses whose score didn’t tie with any other application.

In April, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Illinois recorded $37.3 million in cannabis sales, falling about $3 million short of the state’s cannabis sales record in January.