As the Illinois General Assembly’s fall veto session gets underway this week, advocates for independent cannabis operators are hoping to pass a list of rule changes they say would help ensure entrepreneurs of color finally get a foothold in the industry.
It’s been four years since lawmakers legalized recreational pot sales in Illinois, but many business owners from disadvantaged backgrounds have struggled to gain momentum. As of Oct. 17, state records show that 52 social equity dispensaries and 10 independent craft growers were operating, just a fraction of the nearly 300 combined licenses the state has awarded to date.
Earlier this year, a legislative effort aimed at jump-starting social equity in Illinois’ cannabis industry fizzled just short of the finish line. Now, social equity advocates and their allies in Springfield are trying again to loosen restrictions on independent growers, streamline background checks for job applicants, and prevent large-scale cannabis transporters from monopolizing business, among other priorities.
“We’re not trying to move mountains with these policies — these are some very straightforward rule changes proposed by folks who work in this space,” said Peter Contos, deputy director of the Illinois Cannabis Equity Coalition. “It could be a complete catastrophe if we continue to deny people these basic opportunities.”
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