Springfield, IL – Several lawmakers from the Black and Latino caucuses feel blindsided by the lottery process for recreational cannabis licenses. Over 700 groups applied, but now only 21 finalists are left vying for 75 dispensary licenses.
“Out of 4,500 applications, what in our scoring process made us only dwindle down 75 applications for only 21 applicants? That is just beyond me,” said Rep. Sonya Harper (D-Chicago).
Harper chairs the House Economic Opportunity and Equity Committee. She explained most social equity applicants don’t have the ability to submit dozens of applications in every region. The governor’s top adviser for cannabis agrees something has to change there.
“We need to put a limit on how many you can apply for at one time so that you can’t have really heavy money interests apply for way more than your regular folks can apply for,” Toi Hutchinson said.
Each application costs $2,500. That’s already a tough bill for those trying to start a business in low-income communities. The Legislative Black Caucus asked Pritzker to suspend the lottery process until there is transparency on how and why these groups were selected over others.
They’re also curious to find out why the state granted accounting firm KPMG a no-bid contract to review the applications. Members found an ethical issue with a KPMG employee being named on three of the license applications moving forward in the lottery.
“KPMG was given millions of dollars to do this application process, and we don’t feel it was done right. Plus, they’re giving themselves dispensary licenses,” Harper emphasized. “I think a magnifying glass is definitely needed on this situation.”
Diversity in the industry
Gov. JB Pritzker notes all of the 21 finalists are social equity applicants.
“Two-thirds of the applicants were 51% owned by those who come from disproportionately impacted