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Activists in Illinois Call for Fairness in Dispensary License Process



Rally-goers this week “called for a fairer process to get a marijuana dispensary license in Illinois,” according to local news reports.

Local television station WLS reported that a group gathered Tuesday at the Thompson Center in Chicago to raise objections after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a lottery earlier this month to award 50 new adult-use cannabis licenses in the state in an effort to “expand opportunities targeted to the communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.”

The station reported that the group that organized the rally, known as True Social Equity in Cannabis, “don’t want a lottery to decide who can create a cannabis business in their neighborhood.”

“We are tired of waiting. No more caps, no more lotteries, no more games,” said Jose Lumbreras, one of the rally-goers, as quoted by WLS.

Pritzker’s office announced the forthcoming lottery earlier this month, saying that the state’s Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) would be “filing rules to simplify the cannabis dispensary license application process, remove barriers for social equity applicants, and expand opportunities targeted to the communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.”

The department, the governor’s office said at the time, is required by the state’s new cannabis law to “to issue at least 50 new adult use cannabis dispensary licenses by the end of 2022.”

“From day one, Illinois has been dedicated to leading the nation in an equity-centric approach to legalizing cannabis, and these proposed changes to the application process will make it much easier for social equity applicants to pursue licenses.” Pritzker, a Democrat, said in a statement at the time. “I appreciate all the feedback we have received from stakeholders since the start of the cannabis program, whose work informed this proposal and is continuing to make Illinois’ growing cannabis industry the most equitable in the nation.”

In the press release earlier this month, the Pritzker administration touted that “the new legal cannabis industry reflects the diversity of the state,” saying that: “100% of craft grow, infuser, and transporter licensee applicants managed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture qualified as social equity applicants”; “67% of said applicants live in areas disproportionately impacted by the failed War on Drugs”; “15% have been personally involved with the justice system”; and “five percent have a family member involved with the justice system.”

“We are committed to an inclusive and equitable cannabis program that continues to build on its successes while also recognizing and taking steps to improve it further,” Mario Treto, Jr., the acting secretary of the state’s Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, said earlier this month. “We look forward to introducing even more participants to Illinois’ adult-use cannabis program and encourage all feedback to help ensure we continue to grow the program together.”

But Juan Aguirre, one of the organizers for True Social Equity in Cannabis, said that applicants “have been devastated by what should have been a solution from the legacy market to the legal market. Instead, their life savings have been devastated; their time, their hop, their efforts have been in vain.”

Under the new rules proposed by Priztker, “applicants will be able to apply online with certain basic information (such as the name of the organization, list of principal officers, contact information, and a $250 fee).”

Pritzker’s office said that the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation also plans to to issue 55 conditional licenses to be distributed across the existing 17 BLS Regions detailed in the state’s new recreational cannabis law.

One of the organizers at the rally in Chicago told WLS that the proposal from Pritzker is “a great start to addressing some of the harm caused by the War on Drugs and those harmed by the original process.”

“I think the 55 for $250 is a good start, but we are far from equity,” the organizer, JR Fleming, said, as quoted by the station.


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