There’s been much gnashing of teeth since the state announced that just 21 social equity applicants had qualified for regional lotteries that will award 75 cannabis dispensary store licenses. The 21 winning entities submitted well over 300 applications for those 75 licenses, which has forced a tie-breaking round.
In total, 937 entities submitted 4,518 dispensary site applications, so that’s a whole lot of unhappy people, many of whom have friends in the General Assembly. It really doesn’t matter that 13 of the 21 companies are “majority owned and controlled by people of color and 17 have at least one owner who is a person of color,” as the administration claims. A lot of folks were unexpectedly shut out and people are downright furious.
Even so, the same legislators who are now complaining also voted for the bill, which lays out what applicants had to do to qualify for a license.
The legislation awarded up to 250 points for things like status as a social equity candidate (50 points), labor-friendly employment practices (five points), an environmental plan to limit carbon footprints (five points), an Illinois owner (five points), a diversity plan (five points), security and record-keeping (65 points) and 51% ownership by military veterans (five points), etc.
Now, here’s where the unexpected problem comes in. According to the Pritzker administration, all 21 of the successful applicants scored a perfect 250, plus they all earned two extra bonus points for having what the statute calls “a plan to engage with the community.”
That many perfect scores for that many entities and their respective applications absolutely shocked most applicants and the administration.
The 51% veteran-owned requirement, which was added late in the 2019 negotiations after demands by veteran-friendly Sen. Tony Munoz (D-Chicago) and others, turned out to be a major stumbling block for