‘An important day for cannabis equity in Illinois:’ New bill aims to address flawed licensing rollout, add 11… – Chicago Sun-Times


State Rep. La Shawn Ford joined a group of minority cannabis applicants Tuesday to announce plans for legislation that would address the state’s problematic marijuana licensing rollout and create up to 115 new pot shop permits in a move that could vastly expand Illinois’ weed market.

During a news conference outside Nature’s Care dispensary in West Town, the Chicago Democrat framed the forthcoming bill as the next step in ensuring Illinois meets its lofty goal of creating equity in the white-dominated cannabis industry. But he acknowledged that work won’t be complete until “Black and brown people start making money.”

State Rep. La Shawn Ford claps as former state Sen. Ricky Hendon speaks during a press conference outside Nature’s Care West Loop in the West Town neighborhood on Tuesday morning, March 16, 2021. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Ford drafted the legislation with an ad-hoc coalition of cannabis advocates and so-called social equity applicants, who are given a leg-up in the application process in an effort to bolster diversity.

“Today is an important day for cannabis equity in Illinois as we announce a new, unified path forward that we believe will help the state finally realize the promise they made two years ago,” said Douglas Kelly, executive director of the Cannabis Equity Illinois Coalition.

There’s still not a single licensed marijuana business that counts a person of color as a majority owner, advocates say. And with all the state’s upcoming pot licenses delayed indefinitely after a series of lawsuits were filed last year over the scoring of dispensary applications, the existing operators of cannabis businesses were given an even longer head start to dominate the billion-dollar industry.

A draft of Ford’s legislation would most notably create 110 licenses

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