New process aims to support social equity applications; those who fell short should reapply
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Governor JB Pritzker said Illinois is making changes to the recreational marijuana dispensary application process.
The process has been criticized for shutting out minority applicants. Now, businesses that scored below a certain level on their application will get a chance to make changes, then file again.
Jermell Chavis grew up in North Lawndale and served two tours in Iraq as a U.S. Marine. Now he wants to return to his West Side neighborhood and open a marijuana dispensary.
"I'm supposed to be a true representation of what program was supposed to address, somehow we fell one point shy of that initial turnout," he said.
Chavis is one of dozens of social equity applicants who did not make the lottery for 75 dispensary licenses. After an outcry from minority applicant sand state lawmakers, who claimed the scoring was unfair, Gov. Pritzker is pausing the process and allowing applicants to resubmit their applications.
"Other applicants that earn an updated perfect score will join the existing successful applicants in entering the lottery for 75 adult use licenses," Pritzker said.
Pritzker's office said that applicants who fail to reach the maximum 252 point threshold will get a notice and a score sheet explaining where the application lost points. The applicants will then be able to provide a response and amend their application or ask the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to rescore their application.
With lost marijuana revenue on the line, Pritzker is hoping to award the 75 licenses this fall. While a group that demanded more fairness praised the governor for listening to their concerns and taking actions, they want to make sure applicants chosen are not fronts for big marijuana companies or white owners.
"We will be laser focused that everybody is who they say they are," said Toi Hutchinson, senior advisor for Cannabis Control.
"As we worked with the General Assembly, equity and fairness have always been at the heart of our approach to legalizing cannabis, and when we heard significant concerns from numerous stakeholders about the process to award dispensary licenses, I said we needed to take a pause to fix their concerns, within the bounds of our landmark law," said Governor JB Pritzker. "While this process remains a marathon and not a sprint, we believe that these new steps will inject more equity and fairness in the first round of license awards and provide insight as we improve the process for future rounds."
The IDFPR will then review the responses and issue a final score for each application and then conduct the lottery for the licenses. For more information, visit www2.illinois.gov/cannabis.
After the 75 licenses awarded and before the next 110 are handed out, the Pritzker administration plans on conducting a disparity study to make sure the process is being done fairly.
Chavis said if he ultimately doesn't make it in the first round, he'll keep trying.
"I will continue to fight until we establish a business, because we believe in our model," he said.
Over the next few years, the state will award a total of 500 dispensary licenses.