CHICAGO, Ill. - Fairness in cannabis - that has always been the goal with legalized recreational marijuana in Illinois. The social equity portion of the state's law is aimed at bringing stronger diversity to the industry. However, many feel the cannabis dispensary lottery wasn't fair with only 21 groups initially moving forward for 75 licenses. 937 groups sent in nearly 2,600 applications combined.
Gov. JB Pritzker went back to the drawing board with members of his administration to find a solution for hundreds of applicants who lost out earlier this month. Those groups will soon get a second chance to apply for licenses.
"As governor, I'm not interested in protecting a process that people are afraid to trust," Pritzker said Tuesday. "I'm interested in doing everything we can to advance the priority we all share, and that's fairness."
Social equity applicants who failed to hit a perfect score (252 points) during the initial process will receive a deficiency notice explaining why they lost points. They can then submit revised applications or ask the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to rescore their documents in case of errors.
"This was never about the first round, the first year, or the next election. This is about the next generation," said Toi Hutchinson, Pritzker's Senior Cannabis Advisor. "That's why I'm so proud to stand with Gov. Pritzker and the entire administration to see this through."
Getting it right
The cannabis law requires IDFPR to evaluate the marketplace after the first 75 licenses are awarded. Pritzker said this could help bring new ideas to the General Assembly to improve equity and inclusion in the industry.
"We want to make sure we get this right from the outset," Pritzker added. "The more costly thing, of course, would be getting it wrong and awarding licenses in a way that's not fair, and ending up with an industry that's not truly diverse."
Even with the second shot at a license, many will come out empty-handed. As written in the law, the Pritzker administration can only give out 75 licenses before December 31. However, Hutchinson says more opportunities will sprout this year.
"Whether or not you own the dispensary or you own the cultivation center, there are all kinds of vendors that go into each dispensary. There's supply chain," Hutchinson explained. "There's all different kinds of ways that this industry is going to grow with a population of people who now see a place for themselves in it."
Applicants will have 10 days to respond to the deficiency notices from the administration. Pritzker hopes the lottery process will wrap up later this fall.
"We do not want a world where people who absolutely earned points that they should have received are denied those points," Hutchinson added. "So, we're going to take our time to make sure that this is as thorough, and equitable, and fair as we possibly can make it."