700 Applicants, 21 Finalists: Some Hopefuls Aren’t Happy About Who’s Still In The Running For Illinois’ 75 Dispensary Licenses

Illinois’ recreational marijuana law laid out social equity rules

When Illinois put 75 licenses to operate recreational marijuana dispensaries up for grabs earlier this year, more than 700 groups submitted 4,000 applications.

On Thursday, the state said 21 of those groups will proceed to the final phase: a lottery to award the licenses.

Some applicants who did not make the cut are unhappy that number is so low. Black lawmakers are calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to halt the lottery, and others say the state’s selection process, designed to diversify a largely white-owned industry, has shut out some of the smaller players.

“These are people who were (resourceful) enough to apply in almost every region,” said Nakisha Hobbs, whose group made two failed bids for dispensary licenses. “Some people have more resources than others, but it was a little bit alarming to see that. I thought the list would be a little bit more diverse.”

Illinois’ recreational marijuana law laid out social equity rules, which awarded extra points on the scored applications to companies that were majority owned by a person who has a marijuana-related arrest on their record, lives in an area affected by the war on drugs or meets another qualification. Companies could also employ at least 10 people that meet those qualifications to be considered a social equity applicant.

To get a perfect score on the dispensary applications, the applicant had to achieve social equity status and veteran status, meaning at least 51% of the organization must be owned by a veteran or group of veterans.

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