The Illinois Capitol dome. Just don't look down. Credit: David Wilson

The Illinois Senate sent a package of new social equity-targeted cannabis dispensary licenses to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk Friday, raising expectations for Illinois’ weed industry. Gov. Pritzker, whose team was intimately involved in the design of the license package, indicated that he intends to sign the bill soon.

The bill, which was unchanged from the House version passed earlier last week, creates:

  • The Tied Applicant Lottery, for the twenty-one applicants to the January 2020 dispensary application 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. Those medical licenses will also be allowed to sell adult-use cannabis.

“I’m happy but not satisfied,” said the bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago) on Sunday. “There’s still going to be a lack of real, true equity in this industry because of the fact that medical cannabis got out to a real early start on the Social Equity applicants, and they’ve already established themselves in this industry.”

Between the legalization of adult-use cannabis on January 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021, Illinois cannabis dispensaries sold $1.56 billion of product.

Two lawsuits filed by dispensary applicants in the round of dispensary licenses, announced in September 2020, are still pending in Cook County and Sangamon County Circuit Courts. In both cases judges stayed the cases to see if any solution came from the legislative session that ended yesterday, May 31. Attorneys for both groups of plaintiffs, who charge the scoring system was illegally biased against applicants not led by military veterans, have told Grown In they intend to continue litigation if no solution to their complaints was passed by the legislature. As a result, the Tied Applicant Lottery will likely be delayed by court action for the foreseeable future.

Craft Grow Applicants Left Hanging

Applicants for the 40 craft grow, 40 infuser, and an unlimited number of transport licenses were also left waiting by the legislature, as their licenses, which were originally due July 1, 2020, still have to be awarded by the state. Last winter craft grow applicants sued the state to award licenses, complaining they are laying out an average of $10,000 a month to retain control of property required for their applications, but a Cook County Circuit Court judge rejected their demand.

Rep. Ford, who has taken a lead role on cannabis issues in the legislature, says craft grow licenses should be coming soon.

“I’ve gotten word that next month we’re going to see some release of the craft grow licenses,” said Ford, who also believes craft grow applicants should receive compensation for their wait.

“It’s clear it was the state’s fault in implementing the craft grow process. I think there should be compensation,” he said.


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...