A cultivator lovingly caressing their plant, which will now no longer be available for sale because an ungloved human hand touched it. Credit: Crystalweed / Unsplash

Taking another step to correct missteps with the state’s cannabis industry, the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) has issued the first pre-construction permits to social equity licensees established under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, clearing the way for the businesses to begin construction. 

The Department has issued permits to Galaxy Labs in Richton Park, Mint Cannabis in Forest Park, and Star Buds Illinois in Rockford. These craft growing locations are majority Black and Latino-owned businesses, and the other craft grow license recipients all qualify as social equity applicants on the IDOA website. Social equity applicants are those who lived in areas most affected by the war on drugs, or who had been affected by low-level cannabis arrests.

“This is very encouraging news,” says Scott Redman, president of the Illinois Independent Craft Growers Association. “The Department has assured me that they are engaging the necessary experts to handle this review and I think this announcement shows that adding resources is the key to moving this process forward for everyone.”

Department of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello said it was critical to help these licensees become operational in order to diversify the state’s cannabis industry, which has been overwhelmingly white since the beginning of the state’s medical program in 2015 and recreational use in 2020. 

“With approval in hand, these social equity businesses are clear to start construction, creating hundreds of jobs right here in Illinois, and further expanding the existing cannabis workforce,” Costello said. “We will continue to partner with its licensees and other state partners to ensure that Illinois remains a national leader not only in a safely and efficiently-regulated cannabis production, but also in creating an inclusive industry that looks like Illinois.”

This decision comes days after two major developments in the state: the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s pending approval of 60 more craft grow licenses and 68 plaintiffs in the Illinois cannabis “supercase” obtained a new opportunity by Judge Celia Gamrath after she ordered corrective license lottery for those applicants.

Judge Gamrath’s decision was intended to streamline the process, since she declared from the bench last month that the cases would not likely be fully resolved until at least 2023. The next court date for a status on the lotteries is set for July 26, 2022.

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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.