Illinois was supposed to be the national model when government leaders pledged they’d use the 2020 legalization of cannabis to right the wrongs of the war on drugs that disproportionately harmed Black and Latino communities.
Nearly three years later, those poised to benefit say they’re still stymied. “To our governor, to our lawmakers, we are in a state of emergency right now. Without getting these funds and getting these rules changed, and the legislation changed, all these people behind me who have businesses are going to suffer,” said Douglas Kelly, leader of the Cannabis Equity Illinois Coalition, at a press conference Tuesday. “To the Black and Latino Caucus, Progressive Caucus, we must come together to win this war.”
This summer marked what was to have been a turning point. After lawsuits that delayed the state’s highly-competitive social equity process, in mid-August, Illinois finished awarded 185 licenses for cannabis dispensaries. Social equity license winners had to meet specific criteria, including that a majority of owners either reside in areas the state deems disadvantaged, were arrested or convicted of certain cannabis-related offenses, or had a relative who was.
New dispensaries were never expected to open right away. Still, Kelly said none have so far. The clock is ticking. The licenses are only conditional. License holders have 180 days to meet further state requirements and to get up and running (though they can extend that if they’re unable to lock down a location).
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