Pot equity bill paving way for 185 new dispensaries heads to Pritzker’s desk

Pot equity bill paving way for 185 new dispensaries heads to Pritzker’s desk

By Rachel Hinton and Tom Schuba

State legislators on Friday passed a long-sought bill aimed at ensuring better racial diversity in the state’s cannabis licensing process.

State senators passed the House bill in a 50 to 3 vote Friday afternoon, sending the measure to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who later announced he planned to sign it.

The legislation, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, attempts to fix Illinois’ recreational cannabis law, creating two additional lotteries of 110 total adult-use license dispensaries “for people who are social equity applicants — i.e. from a Black or Brown community,” according to a news release announcing the passage of the bill. In addition, those applicants won’t be subject to rules requiring dispensaries be located at least 1,500 feet apart.

“Existing dispensary owners, all non-minorities, have already taken many of the prime locations in the state,” Lightford said in a statement. “Dispensary owners from disadvantaged communities deserve a fair chance to make a profit by having access to lucrative business locations and not being locked out by distance requirements.”

Those additional lotteries will be broken in two and consist of 55 licenses each round.

One of those lotteries will be open to social equity applicants who previously received 85% of a total of 250 points on the state’s scoring scale. For the other lottery, much of the same criteria applies, but applicants will need to meet the definition of “Social Equity Justice Involved” status, meaning priority will be given to those who live in an area “disproportionately impacted” by the drug war or who have past arrests for cannabis-related offenses.

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