After approving thirteen new dispensaries in the last week, Illinois cannabis regulators approved a total of 110 dispensary licenses just before the April 1 deadline and the maximum possible under current Illinois law. Earlier this year observers doubted the fifty-five secondary site licenses and fifty-five same-site licenses would be approved by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s statutory deadline, since many locations were far from ready for approval. To obtain a state license, a dispensary location must have drawn up construction plans and local zoning approval.

Since January, 40 locations obtained IDFPR approval for recreational cannabis sales. Only three licenses are sited in Chicago. None are on the city’s South or West Sides.

Meanwhile, Illinois has yet to issue any of the 75 dispensary licenses aimed at social equity owners. Licenses were originally supposed to be issued on May 1, 2020. 

A recent Grown In report analysing Illinois regulator emails, painted a picture of a messy review process hampered a last-minute contract to score dispensary applications, pressure to meet a timetable set by Illinois law, and little appreciation by state employees and contract workers of the complexity of the new process aimed at ensuring racial equity in the Illinois cannabis industry.

A 2020 IDFPR report, leaked in February, showed that less than 2% of all Illinois dispensary owners are minority. Less than one tenth of a percent are Black or Latino.


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...