Illinois' Pot Program Falls Short on Social Equity Promises – WTTW News


When Illinois legalized recreational cannabis nearly a year ago, it wasn’t just marijuana customers who were excited.

Black and Latino entrepreneurs looking to get into the industry were, too. 

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A central tenet of Illinois’ program was that it would endeavor to right the wrongs of a war on drugs that inordinately punished people of color by giving a leg up to those from disadvantaged communities or who had been punished for low-level drug crimes.

Instead, with pot sales expected to reach $1 billion in 2020, social equity applicants remain locked out. Those profiting off the industry remain those who hold onto medical marijuana licenses awarded by the state years ago without an eye toward equity.

Illinois was supposed to award 75 cannabis dispensary licenses over the summer — a date originally pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic, then further put on hold after a furor over how the hundreds of applications were scored.

Gov J.B. Pritzker’s administration planned to give those who were close to the perfect scores achieved by the 21 finalists a chance to fix “discrepancies” in their applications, but those who are waiting for that chance say that’s even on hold as lawsuits play out in court.

“I’m trying to keep my language clean, but for lack of a better term, it’s a big cluster jug,” said Marc Pullins of Roseland Matters.

Pullins had hoped to win a dispensary license, with plans to open up a shop in Roseland as a way to spur economic development in a community of 30,000 that he said has no dry cleaner.

Ambrose Jackson said the situation is even more negative for applicants trying for a craft grower license, given that initially the state had required applicants to have secured space for their growing operations.

“We’ve just kind

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