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Illinois Announces Plans for 185 New Dispensary Licenses

Illinois has announced Friday plans to grant 185 additional dispensary licences under its adult-use cannabis program. It did this less than a month following a court order.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation said that the licenses will be awarded in “three waves” of lotteries this summer, and that the “pace of licensing will be determined by how quickly applicants’ compliance checks can be verified.”

“Today marks the beginning of the next chapter of the most equitable adult-use cannabis program in the country,” Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said in a statement on Friday. “After signing the most equity-centered program in the country into law, expunging thousands of low-level cannabis convictions, and investing tens of millions of dollars in cannabis proceeds in communities failed by the war on drugs, we are about to more than double the number of adult use cannabis dispensaries in Illinois. This means countless more opportunities for communities that have suffered from historic disinvestment to join this growing industry and ensure its makeup reflects the diversity of our state.”

A ruling made by Michael Mullen of Cook County Circuit Court late last month allowed Friday’s announcement. This decision lifted an almost one-year-old stay on the new licenses for recreational cannabis dispensaries. 

While the court issued an injunction against new licenses, it also considered parties who claimed they had been wrongly exempted from past lotteries.

According to Chicago Tribune, “Black and Latino applicants have complained they have been unfairly kept out of the legal cannabis business in Illinois, where just 21 licenses for full-size growers have been issued, almost entirely to white owners, several of whom have come to dominate the industry nationally.”

In March, Pritzker’s administration announced “rules to simplify the cannabis dispensary license application process, remove barriers for social equity applicants, and expand opportunities targeted to the communities most impacted by the failed war on drugs.”

“From day one, Illinois has been dedicated to leading the nation in an equity-centric approach to legalizing cannabis, and these proposed changes to the application process will make it much easier for social equity applicants to pursue licenses.” Pritzker, a Democrat, said at the time. “I appreciate all the feedback we have received from stakeholders since the start of the cannabis program, whose work informed this proposal and is continuing to make Illinois’ growing cannabis industry the most equitable in the nation.”

Mario Treto, Jr., Acting Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, said at the time that the state is “committed to an inclusive and equitable cannabis program that continues to build on its successes while also recognizing and taking steps to improve it further.”

The state said Friday that to “ensure fairness for all applicants and correct any errors in the lottery process, [Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation] has also announced its plans to conduct three corrective lotteries in June (one for each of the cannabis dispensary license lotteries held in 2021).”

“We recognize this is a long-awaited day by many seeking to join the most diverse and inclusive adult use cannabis industry of any state and IDFPR is prepared to take the next steps forward together,” Treto said in a press release on Friday. “Our agency is ready to work with applicants throughout the next stage so they may obtain their licenses and join Illinois’ robust adult use cannabis industry.”

Friday’s announcement by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation stated that conditional licenses will be issued in three different lottery wave beginning July 22, or earlier, according to its website.