Image source: Matthew Hatcher / Reuters
On Friday, Illinois regulators issued 149 cannabis dispensary licenses promising to increase the number of marijuana stores in the state.
The decision ends a nearly a year delay for entrepreneurs looking to delve into the cannabis industry, giving them the green light to prepare for their storefronts.
The decision to regulate dispensation permits was the first made by Prime Minister JB Pritzker’s government.
Marijuana had previously been legalized with its signature in 2019. A year later, sales began.
The problematic introduction of licensing in Illinois then hit a stumbling block.
A steady stream of lawsuits and criticism that the diversity promotion system paved the way for established pot giants with 110 operating dispensaries.
The first companies to set up shops were all previously state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.
The 149 new Social Justice licensees are among 185 applicants who won a series of gated lotteries last summer for the coveted license.
However, two candidates sued the state’s filing system, prompting a Cook County judge to order state officials to suspend the distribution of the licenses.
The judge overturned the order in May.
Pritzker’s office called Friday’s licensees the “first wave” of winners to be officially licensed to sell weed legally.
More than 41% of new licensees are majority black, 7% white, and 4% Latino.
According to official figures, 38% did not share their owners’ race.
“Illinois is leading the way in addressing the War on Drugs as no state has before, and dispensary ownership that reflects our state’s diversity is a product of that commitment,” Pritzker said.
“These licenses represent a significant step toward accountability for the decades of injustice preceding cannabis legalization.”
“Illinois will continue to deliver on the promises of putting equity at the forefront of this process,” he added.
Opportunities for minorities
While the new licenses provide opportunities for people of color to enter retail, existing players and political insiders in the sector have also scored, including GRI Holdings.
GRI Holdings is a powerful company linked to the state government, which counts restaurateur Phil Stefani as a director and Jeffrey Rehnerger, CEO of video game company Lucky Lincoln Gaming.
Baked Too, a minority-owned startup, also received the government’s seal of approval.
The company got a license after filing a lawsuit in Cook County court claiming the state “forced” them to unfairly give up a lottery seat.
Along with other new licensees, Britteney Kapri, a partner of So Baked, has 180 days to get approved for a store before obtaining the full license for the group to start storing weed.
Kapri said he was still “in shock” to finally get a permit after all these years.
“We are still at the very beginning of a long long process,” said Kapri.
“I feel good, really, really good – and scared but hopeful.”
Meanwhile, cannabis sales in Illinois have soared, with the state receiving nearly $ 450 million in tax revenue from $1.5 billion in recreational marijuana sales.
According to Governor JB Pritzker, the amount of taxes collected has increased from $297.7 million in the fiscal year 2021 to $445.3 million this year, an increase of 50%.
Overall, recreational cannabis sales also increased by 50%, from $1 billion to $1.5 billion.
“Illinois has done more to put justice and equity at the forefront of this industry than any other state in the nation and has worked to ensure that communities hurt by the war on drugs have had the opportunity to participate,” said Pritzker.
“The $1.5 billion in sales of adult-use cannabis in Illinois translates into significant tax revenue with a portion of every dollar spent being reinvested in communities that have suffered for decades.”