Bill Creating New Marijuana Dispensary Licenses Clears House In Illinois – St. Louis Public Radio


SPRINGFIELD, IL — Legislation revamping the state’s system for awarding marijuana dispensary licenses passed the House on Tuesday, May 25.

The measure is meant to address shortcomings in the 2019 Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, specifically in regard to a license lottery that was delayed by the pandemic, controversy and legal disputes for over a year.

Amendments to House Bill 1443, sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. La Shawn Ford, would create two new marijuana dispensary lotteries offering 55 licenses each while addressing lingering concerns regarding the original 75 licenses established in the 2019 law.

It passed the House in a 70-33 vote with bipartisan support, but also bipartisan opposition. Democratic Rep. Carol Ammons, of Urbana questioned whether his legislation accomplished the social equity spirit of the initial marijuana legalization legislation.

“My dispensaries in Champaign-Urbana can be owned by a group from other states, taking the resources from Champaign-Urbana to Michigan, Ohio or some other state,” Ammons said. “I don’t do lotteries.”

Ford described his bill as the best way to increase the possibility of local Black and brown communities in Illinois getting access to the booming marijuana industry.

“I wish I could write a bill that would guarantee that Black people wouldn’t worry about the things that we worry about today, and that there was justice for all,” Ford said.

The 75 licenses initially set by the 2019 law were supposed to be granted by May 2020, but were sidelined by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They were later delayed again following backlash over how applicants for the licenses were scored, and pushed back a third time following lawsuits against the state by the finalists of the initial lottery after Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced applications that did not meet the cut could be edited and rescored.

Originally, the process as intended would award licenses in order of applicant

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