Editors note: This article is reprinted with permission from Crain Chicago and written by John Pletz.
Recipients now have 180 days to get their stores open and get final state approval, although they can seek an extension.
After 812 days, almost 100 applicants finally have gotten 149 licenses to open new marijuana stores in Illinois.
“It’s super exciting—finally,” said Akele Parnell, a co-owner of Marigrow, which plans to open a dispensary in Lincoln Park.
The Department of Financial & Professional Regulation issued 149 licenses, which were awarded in three lotteries last summer to 94 applicants. It’s the beginning of the end of a long journey for Illinois, which voted to legalize recreational marijuana three years ago with a vision of changing the face of the cannabis industry by including more minority owners, especially from neighborhoods hit hard by the war on drugs.
The centerpiece was a “social-equity” provision in the criteria for awarding dispensary and other licenses. The process has been marked by delays and disappointment. The first 75 licenses were supposed to be issued on May 1, 2020, but the process was delayed multiple times by the pandemic, litigation, and other problems. Today, the state issued 149 of the 185 licenses it awarded by lottery last summer. The remaining licenses will be issued later.
The state has demographic data on about two-thirds of the 185 license winners. It says 41% of them are majority Black-owned, 7% are majority white-owned and 4% are majority Latino-owned.
“Illinois is leading the way in addressing the war on drugs as no state has before, and dispensary ownership that reflects our state’s diversity is a product of that commitment,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement.
Applicants now have 180 days to get their stores open and receive final approval from the state, although they can seek an extension. Many will have to finalize financing, which can be challenging. Marijuana companies aren’t eligible for traditional bank financing, and investors’ appetite has cooled with a deep decline in cannabis stocks over the past year.
“We have our financing,” Parnell says. “Now we have to go through rezoning.”
Marigrow plans to open its store in the former Dash of Salt & Pepper Diner at 2201 N. Lincoln Ave. in Lincoln Park.
“It was quite the wait. It’s a relief now to have the license in hand,” Parnell says. “There’s a lot of work ahead.”