Applicants say Illinois’ budding marijuana industry not living up to promise of promoting diversity

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CHICAGO — Some aspiring marijuana retailers who applied for licenses under Illinois’ social equity program say the state’s budding cannabis industry is not living up to its promise of promoting investment in under-resourced communities.

A group of applicants and lawmakers said Tuesday the state’s process of using a lottery to give out the 75 dispensary licenses is unjust because it doesn’t give additional weight to the social equity applicants. 

“It’s a knife through the heart of the black and brown community,” former state senator Rickey Hendon said.

Toi Hutchinson, the governor’s chief advisor on cannabis, said there is bound to be “a lot of disappointment” since there were 4,500 applications for just 75 marijuana licenses.

State officials say 21 social equity candidates are among those selected to move on to the next round of the lottery, including 13 owners of color. 

But State Rep. LaShawn Ford said many people are still being shut out of the process. One change critics are eyeing would be putting a limit on how many applications can be submitted at once.

Governor JB Pritzker said Tuesday the law does not allow him to stop the lottery, but the licensing process will be studied and there could be changes along the way.

“This is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. We’ve said that all along,” Pritzker said.

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