The initial adult-use cannabis industry began as a transition of medical cannabis companies into the adult-use marketplace on January 1, 2020. Those initial businesses were all majority white-owned, and only one was a majority woman-owned business.
In 2021 and into 2022, the State issued hundreds of new licenses under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA) to Social Equity Applicants. These new Social Equity businesses are extremely diverse—roughly two-thirds of the new licenses are owned by Black, Latino/a, and other groups of people.
The Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer (CROO) has conducted three diversity surveys to assess the extent of diversity in the medical and adult-use cannabis industry and methods for reducing or eliminating any identified barriers to entry, including access to capital. The first survey was from November 2020 to April 2021, the second from December 2021 to August 2022, and the most recent survey from December 2022 to August 2023.
Key Changes from 2020 to 2023:
- Diversity has increased among cannabis companies in Illinois (categorized by the majority equity of company ownership):
- Black-owned companies increased from 0% to 27%
- Latino, Latina, or Hispanic-owned companies from 0% to 5%
- Asian-owned companies from 0% to 3%
- A coalition of non-White owners with no one race or ethnicity holding the majority from 0% to 14%
- Women-owned companies from 3% to 16%
- Illinois cannabis employees are diverse (2023 results):
- From 5% to 11% are Latino, Latina, or Hispanic employees (from 2020 to 2023)
- From 1% to 2% are Asian employees (from 2020 to 2023)
- 3% are veterans
- 7% have a disability
- 7% have been or have had a family member arrested, convicted, or adjudicated delinquent on a cannabis-related offense
- 2% have been incarcerated
- 16% identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community
- 2% identify as transgender
Cannabis companies are complicated: one operates as a non-profit, several others are publicly traded companies with the majority equity held by stockholders, and others are established as small corporations or partnerships with complex funding and management arrangements. Further, companies may own multiple licenses, collaborate with national brands, or hire management companies. Often, but not always, one company is owned by a coalition of people. Race/ethnicity and gender of owners are analyzed to describe the majority equity of the companies.
The industry demographics found by the three CROO Diversity Surveys are listed below. A PDF summarizing the results can be found here.