Illinois activists call for fairness in dispensary licensing process

Attendees at the rally this week “called for a fairer process for obtaining a marijuana dispensary license in Illinois,” according to local reports.

Local broadcaster WLS reported that a group met at the Thompson Center in Chicago on Tuesday to raise objections after Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced a lottery earlier this month to award 50 new adult cannabis licenses in the state in a bid to “expand opportunity”. targeting the communities most affected by the failed war on drugs. »

The station reported that the group that organized the rally, known as True Social Equity in Cannabis, “doesn’t want a lottery deciding who gets to start a cannabis business in their neighborhood.”

“We are tired of waiting. More caps, more lotteries, more games,” said Jose Lumbreras, one of the rally participants, as quoted by WLS.

Pritzker’s office announced the next lottery earlier this month, saying the state’s Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) “would be filing rules to simplify the cannabis dispensary license application process, removing barriers for social equity candidates and expanding opportunities targeted at the communities most affected 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 “issue at least 50 new adult cannabis dispensary licenses by the end of 2022.”

“From day one, Illinois has been committed to leading the country in an equity-focused approach to legalizing cannabis, and these proposed changes to the application process will allow social equity applicants to obtain licenses much more easily.” Pritzker, a Democrat, said in a statement at the time. “I appreciate all of the feedback we have received from stakeholders since the Cannabis Program began, whose work has informed this proposal and continues to make Illinois’ growing cannabis industry the fairest in the nation. .”

In the press release issued earlier this month, the Pritzker administration touted that “the new legal cannabis industry reflects the diversity of the state”, stating that: “100% of applicants for craft cultivation, brewer and carrier are operated by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Qualified as Social Equity Candidates”; “67% of said candidates live in areas disproportionately affected by war failure against drugs”; “15% have been personally involved in the legal system”; and “five percent have a family member involved in the legal system”.

“We are committed to building an inclusive and equitable cannabis program that continues to build on its successes while recognizing and taking steps to further improve it,” said Mario Treto, Jr., Acting Secretary of the State Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. earlier this month. “We look forward to introducing even more participants to the Illinois Adult Cannabis Program and welcome all feedback to help us continue to grow the program together.”

But Juan Aguirre, one of the organizers of True Social Equity in Cannabis, said applicants “were devastated by what should have been a solution from the legacy market to the legal market. Instead, their savings were wiped out. their time, their leap, their efforts were in vain.

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

Pritzker’s office said the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation also plans to issue 55 conditional licenses for distribution in the 17 existing BLS regions detailed in the state’s new recreational cannabis law.

One of the organizers of the rally in Chicago told WLS that Pritzker’s proposal is “a good start in addressing some of the damage done by the War on Drugs and those who were harmed by the initial process.”

“I think 55 for $250 is a good start, but we’re a long way from fairness,” organizer JR Fleming was quoted by the station as saying.

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