Legislators in Springfield are hashing out a plan that one lawmaker says could potentially double the number of new marijuana shops as the state grapples with an ongoing licensing imbroglio that’s hampered the governor’s pro-pot agenda, the Sun-Times has learned.
A lottery to determine the winners of the next wave of 75 licenses has been delayed indefinitely after a string of lawsuits were filed in the wake of the announcement that just 21 groups qualified in September. Though Gov. J.B. Pritzker later created a process to give the more than 900 losing applicants another shot, that plan has also prompted legal action from three of the finalists.
State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, is now pushing a legislative fix that would unleash 75 additional dispensary licenses, meaning there could eventually be a total of 150 new licenses. Those groups that didn’t make the cut for the lottery would automatically be included in the new application process without having to pay new fees, he added.
On Tuesday — a day after Ford and other members of a cannabis working group met with members of Pritzker’s team — the representative claimed new legislation could “cure some of the faults of the current law” and potentially “eliminate some of the lawsuits.”
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file
Ford believes the move would help the state to meet its goal of prioritizing licenses for social equity applicants, a designation created to bolster minority ownership in the state’s overwhelmingly white cannabis industry. While all the initial lottery contestants earned the extra application points for qualifying for social equity status, concerns have been raised that some include individuals with deep pockets, connections to state government or existing ties to the cannabis industry.
“I can truly say that the governor’s office really wants to see this problem go