Illinois social equity advocates make happy on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, before the cameras to demonstrate their unity behind a proposed bill to create more dispensary licenses. Credit: Mike Fourcher / Grown In

Compared to the raucous press conference Illinois cannabis social equity advocates held three weeks ago, Tuesday’s effort to demonstrate unity behind new proposed legislation was like comparing indica to sativa.

“I’m all smiles today. All smiles,” said advocate Rickey Hendon, moments after he hugged fellow advocate and sometime sparring partner Edie Moore for the cameras.

An array of cannabis social equity advocates gathered Tuesday morning to trumpet their support of legislation they had been furiously negotiating over – with Hendon and Moore’s last press conference emphasizing “furious” – and finally came to agreement on. The bill is meant to break a log jam in the state legislature over creating new cannabis dispensary licenses targeted at black and brown applicants. 

[Download draft of proposed social equity cannabis legislation]

The Black and Latino Caucuses have put a brick on moving any cannabis legislation until social equity for licenses is resolved. A recent state report showed that less than 2% of the state’s dispensary owners are Black or Latino.

Called in conjunction with State Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago), leaders of the various groups repeatedly said Gov. J.B. Pritzker is behind the bill, and that it has the support of the entire Black Caucus and many Latino legislators. 

“We are assured the Governor supports this. We know the governor is ready to make sure this emerging market is open to Black people and brown people,” said Ford.

Charity Greene, a spokesperson for Gov. Pritzker, somewhat concurred. “We welcome the legislation proposed by Rep. Ford in coordination with community stakeholders that aims to address acknowledged shortcomings in the Act.”

Although a draft has not been filed yet, a draft circulated by supporters focuses on adding more lotteries for social equity applicants. In the plan, the 21 dispensary applicants who advanced in the application process last Fall will have a lottery with 75 licenses distributed to them, and then a second lottery of 75 licenses would be conducted for all remaining thousands of dispensary applicants who applied last year. Then, a third lottery focused on just social equity applicants would be conducted.

In a nod to the power of existing license holders in the legislature, the bill includes a provision for existing dispensary license holders to relocate, four months after the two new sets of dispensary licenses are awarded.

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Editor Mike is an itinerate reporter, recovering political consultant, and strategy game devotee.