Illinois State Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago) (top) is lead co-sponsor of this year’s cannabis bill and Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Senior Advisor for Cannabis Control Toi Hutchinson testified in favor of the proposed legislation. (Zoom)

Legislation issuing 115 new cannabis dispensary licenses unanimously passed out of an Illinois House committee last Thursday with vocal support from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s lead cannabis advisor and a slew of new bill co-sponsors. The 204-page bill would create two new lotteries for 55 new dispensary licenses each, using the pool of applicants obtained in January 2020, and would distribute five unassigned medical licenses in another new lottery. The bill, HB1443, also includes a slew of technical fixes, including allowing cannabis employees to begin work while they wait for a printed state identification card, and allowing existing adult-use dispensaries to move locations.

Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago), who has shepherded the legislation’s negotiation with numerous social equity advocacy groups, detailed the bill in testimony before the House Executive Committee.

“We know that social equity applicants may have been left behind. With the passage of this bill, this gives them an opportunity to locate in places that they were dreaming of locating when they applied for licenses. It gives them opportunities to go after prime spots,” said Ford.

Toi Hutchinson, Gov. Prizker’s Senior Advisor on Cannabis Control, also announced during testimony that, “The supplemental deficiency notices are about 95% complete right now,” for dispensary scores. Supplemental deficiency notices were established as part of a legal settlement last fall with suing social equity applicants who charged the dispensary application process was “inherently flawed”.

The bill, which was passed out of committee as House Floor Amendment 4, clarifies and establishes four lotteries: 

  • The Tied Applicant Lottery, for the 21 applicants to the January 2020 process who scored perfect scores, who would be in a drawing for 75 dispensary adult-use licenses;
  • The Qualifying Applicant Lottery, for 55 adult-use licenses, for applicants to the January 2020 process who scored at least 85% of 250 applicant points.
  • The Social Equity Justice Involved Lottery, for 55 adult-use licenses, for applicants to the January 2020 process who scored at least 85% of 250 applicant points and does not include applicants who obtained social justice status by employing 10 people who were from disproportionately impacted areas or had been arrested because of a cannabis-related crime; and,
  • The Social Equity Justice Involved Medical Lottery, for 5 unassigned medical licenses (which includes a “plus-one” adult-use license) for applicants with the same qualifications as the Social Justice Involved Lottery.

The bill also includes provisions to allow current adult-use dispensaries to relocate and to allow at one new social equity dispensary licenses to locate within 1,500 feet of an existing adult-use dispensary, providing local zoning rules allow it.

The provision also includes a number of ownership disclosure rules, requiring cannabis businesses to keep a record of owners and operators on file with state agencies, and for state agencies to publish license ownership information and business locations on department websites. Currently medical cultivators and dispensaries are not required to disclose that information.

The legislation that passed committee does not address pending lawsuits holding up the 75 licenses that were originally supposed to be awarded in April 2020. While those lawsuits are currently stayed by courts, pending legislative action, litigants have stated their intention to continue their suits.

Next up for Rep. Ford’s proposed legislation, a vote in the House and then action in the Illinois Senate. The Illinois state legislature’s Spring Session traditionally adjourns by May 31.

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