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Cannabis sales make billions in Illinois, but black and brown entrepreneurs remain in limbo with licensing delays

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Chicago (CBS) Patrick’s Day, the state of Illinois issued an update for another green plant — billions of dollars worth of legal weeds sold in Illinois without a single new license allowed to open in more than two years.

CBS 2’s Tara Molina has been following this thread since the beginning. On Thursday I spoke to two license winners who were has been detained waiting to open their own business.

They have been commented For years nowThey are stuck waiting seven months since winning state lottery system licenses to open businesses.

At this point, they say, government and legal delays aren’t just hurting their bottom line — they’re hurting the state of Illinois.

Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois at the beginning of 2020, the state has seen more than $2 billion in cannabis sales. In fact, it’s the legal amount of cash lucrative business in Illinois – to say the least – as the state also earns hundreds of millions in tax dollars, and medical marijuana business owners get richer.

“I only want my shot,” Frank Cowan said. “I only want my shot.” There is no representation of minorities.

Illinois has promised from the start to prioritize applicants like Kwan in its equity-focused legal plan. Instead, they’re still stuck waiting from the sidelines.

No new license holder has opened a store in Illinois.

“kudos to J.P. Pritzker, Governor Pritzker, for his participation in the social justice program – but it was a complete disaster.” Kwan said.

Kwan grew up on the south side of town, and remembers something he said to his mother as a teenager.

“(I said), ‘Marijuana will be legal one day,’” Kwan said. “And she looked at me and said, ‘No, you won’t, never.'”

Now, decades later, marijuana is legal. Kwan finally put his foot in the door as a social equity applicant and dispensary license winner.

But the door will not open.

With major government delays blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic, and now a months-long legal battle over the state’s licensing process, Kwan and every other license winner is still stuck.

A Cook County judge owns up to 185 dispensary licenses.

“There will be people who can’t open,” Kwan said.

But it’s not just herbal dispensary license winners who are stuck. Nobody harvests marijuana either.

Akeley Parnell, an attorney who serves on the board of directors for the Chicago chapter, said: National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “It’s absurd, because legalization was supposed to be about racial equality.”

Parnell got his craft development license now, but he’s still waiting for his dispensary license.

“You know, the last thing Illinois wants is for investors to lose interest in Black and Brown, because it took so long and some opportunities were probably missed,” Parnell said.

At the end of the day, both Cowan and Parnell said, the red tape they’re stuck in doesn’t just hurt them.

“Illinois is losing big tax dollars,” Cowan said.

Kwan partnered with Planet 13 marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas, and will drive Planet 13 in Illinois as soon as he can unlock it. It was the partnership that allowed him to financially cling to all the delays.

The hope now is that these licenses will be issued soon — with work now happening at the state and city level to try to prevent all of this from repeating itself, and 55 new dispensary license winners are expected this year.

The state of Illinois issued the following statement:

“This announcement is for 55 new adult conditional cannabis licenses through a lottery later this year. This streamlined process is the result of extensive discussions between the Pritzker Administration and stakeholders. Due to a court order, IDFPR cannot issue 185 adult conditional licenses to adults. For the use of cannabis for selected beneficiaries in the 2021 lottery at this time pending ongoing litigation.

Monthly sales figures for adult cannabis use can be found at IDFPR Adult Cannabis Program webpage or by going here. Tax revenue figures for sales of cannabis to adult abuse can be found at Illinois Department of Revenue website. “

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced this week that it is introducing rules to simplify the cannabis dispensary license application process and break down barriers for social equity applicants.

From day one, Illinois has been dedicated to leading the nation in an equity-focused approach to legalizing cannabis, and these proposed changes to the application process will make it easier for social equity applicants to pursue licenses. Press Release. “I appreciate all the feedback we have received from stakeholders since the inception of the Cannabis Program, whose work has contributed to this proposal and continues to make Illinois’s growing cannabis industry more equitable in the country.”

Under the planned new rules, applicants will be able to apply online with certain basic information — including the organization’s name, list of principals, contact information, and a $250 fee. During the sweepstakes process for 55 new conditional licenses, applicants and principals may not participate in more than one sweepstakes entry.

If it is considered eligible for one of 55 new conditional licenses, applicants will need to meet social justice criteria and will have 45 days to do so.

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