Minority applicants looking to break into Illinois’ lily-white cannabis industry urged Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday to start dishing out 190 planned pot shop licenses in the next 30 days — a timeline the governor’s chief cannabis adviser said is almost within reach.
Rickey Hendon, a former state senator and current applicant for dispensary licenses, made the request at a news conference lauding the passage of legislation that aims to resolve a lengthy cannabis licensing controversy and get permits into the hands of the so-called social equity applicants that legalization was intended to benefit.
“If the governor does that, then we can be in business by the fall,” Hendon said during the jovial event at MacArthur’s Restaurant in South Austin, where he was surrounded by state Rep. La Shawn Ford, Pritzker’s cannabis czar Toi Hutchinson and a group of minority applicants.
Rickey Hendon (left) speaks with Tyrone Muhammad (right) at a news conference held by a coalition of social equity applicants on June 2, 2021 Brian Rich/Sun-Times
Pritzker has already committed to signing the new legislation, which updates the legalization law that he campaigned on passing.
Ford, who drafted the bill with help from Hendon and other social equity candidates, later told the Sun-Times that he supports the call for a swift turnaround — as long as the process is fair. And Hutchinson said Hendon’s goal is “close” to obtainable.
But first, Hutchinson said, she and other officials need to work out the logistics of holding multiple lotteries to issue the flood of new dispensary licenses.
Last September, regulators announced that just 21 groups earned the perfect scores to qualify for a long-delayed lottery to award the next 75 recreational dispensary licenses. The news prompted outrage