Inside Jushi’s Beyond/Hello dispensary in Normal, Ill. Credit: Provided / Jushi

As Illinois prepares to issue 50 additional dispensary licenses this year, regulators are also proposing to make the application process easier.

In a new set of proposed rules the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) announced proposed details of its newly revised licensing system, one that will streamline and simplify the process for applicants. All filing will now be managed electronically with a new application form covering basics such as the name of the organization and contact information. In addition to the lottery system, applications will cost $250, a big drop down from the $5,000 fee due for 2020 applications.

Furthermore, the revisions would establish a new administrative review process, making it easier to file complaints or address certain issues without the need for litigation – a problem that tied up the previous 185 dispensary licenses issued. The revision now makes it possible for people to apply as social equity applicants outright, rather than rely on scoring from the lottery to determine it. 

Social equity applicants must have 26% or more of its ownership by someone who’s been living for at least 5 of the past 10 years in a designated area with high poverty or high arrest rates for cannabis offenses, has been arrested for a low-level cannabis offense, or has a family member with such a case. These applicants must work in a low-income area for two years.

Edie Moore, executive director of Chicago NORML, praised the changes and said that the process will help make things easier for aspiring applicants and for the state overall.

“This was long overdue. I’m happy that you don’t have to pay thousands of dollars to get in a lottery and not get your ticket,” Moore said. “I think that it’s incredible, because so much needed to change.”

Moore said that Illinois’ Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act was written too hastily, leading to many missteps without a proper way to address concerns and complaints of applicants that didn’t lead to a lawsuit. 

Pamela Althoff, executive director of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois, said that despite the lack of clarity on when applicants would know if they were to be denied or approved for a dispensary based on online applications, she is happy to see the reforms in place as it is now less confusing and cheaper to apply.

“The application is now less confusing,” Althoff said. “I think that there was a major effort overall to correct all of the problems that have been raised by previous applicants.”
The issuing of new licenses comes during a time of a “supercase” involving 185 possible licenses tied up in legal limbo. The supercase deals with applicants who contend their applications were either mishandled by the state or barred from participating in the application process. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Cecilia Gamrath said that she expects the case to last until 2023.

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Trey Arline is Grown In’s Midwest Reporter. He was most recently with the Daily Herald, but has also reported for Vegas PBS, The Nevada Independent, and the Associated Press.