Last week Grown In reported on a Special Use Petition granted by the City of Aurora for an entity called Bloom Holdings to operate a downtown dispensary contingent upon obtaining a state license. Alex Perez, managing principal of The Grove Aurora Group, asks elected leaders of the second largest municipality in Illinois why his organization was not extended the same opportunity. 

How can a city designate social equity status to a cannabis company and grant them a placeholder for a recreational dispensary license before being issued by the state? 

That is the question we would like to have answered by the City of Aurora. Aurora approved a Special Use Petition for a Cannabis Dispensing Facility to the politically-connected entity, Bloom Holdings LLC. 

It is with great concern that we call into question the decision to prematurely grant Bloom Holdings one of only two social equity licenses (capped by the City of Aurora) on April 28th’s city council meeting. The city council decision was made prior to the State of Illinois issuing dispensing licenses by May 1st.

Unaware of any spot-holding process the City had, other social equity applicants vying for an opportunity in Aurora have been waiting for the State of Illinois to issue dispensing licenses. The State announced the indefinite postponement of the issuing of licenses one day after the City of Aurora voted to hold a spot for Bloom Holdings. 

The Grove Aurora, LLC, along with other social equity applicants and community advocacy groups, fear that the City of Aurora is building additional barriers to participation and excluding minority social equity applicants. As previous articles have mentioned, 600 of the 700 applications were submitted under social equity status. The region, including the City of Aurora and spanning across Cook County, is already limited to only 47 licenses. By “holding place” for certain vying applicants without a fair process, the City of Aurora is actively working on cutting down opportunities for those same 600-700 social equity applicants. 

We believe that the City of Aurora is taking an action that directly defies the essence of the Social Equity Program, enacted by the State of Illinois. That is, to ensure that communities historically impacted by the criminalization of cannabis have an opportunity to participate in the legal cannabis industry. The State of Illinois holds sole power of the designation of social equity status, and we believe it is in the State’s best interest to investigate any activity of municipalities’ creating additional barriers or favoritism in their processes of entrance. 

There is no question that Bloom Holdings LLC should have its special use permit rescinded due to a faulty and premature process by the City of Aurora. Aurora should create a fair and competitive measure by which to award future special use permits to dispensing organizations that qualify as social equity only after being designated as social equity by the State of Illinois and being issued a license. 

The State of Illinois has worked hard to make the Social Equity Program equitable for those communities that need it the most. As the second-largest city in the state, Aurora sets precedents for surrounding local governments. Therefore, the city must be held accountable in their erred attempt to head the legitimacy of the cannabis industry in the state of Illinois.

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Editor Mike is a co-founder and the editor of Grown In, a U.S. national cannabis industry newsletter and training company. His career has taken him from Capitol Hill to Chicago City Hall, from...