Cannabis industry licensing may finally continue in Illinois after the state won a court order to award 60 new licenses and Sangamon County Judge Gail Noll lifted an injunction holding up new licenses due to lawsuits, the Chicago Tribune reports. The development should open the industry’s door to a swathe of new entrepreneurs and businesses.
With her decision, Judge Noll also restored the applications for 11 companies that had sued the Illinois Department of Agriculture for being disqualified; these applications can now be reconsidered by officials for the next round of licensing.
Additionally, in an effort to increase social equity in the state’s cannabis industry, Illinois officials recently simplified the application process for up to 55 cannabis retail licenses, the Tribune reported earlier this week.
Instead of hundreds of pages of plans — which often required many thousands of dollars in attorney and consultant fees, employee information, and property acquisition — the new application will be online and only include basic information like the name of the organization applying for the license, principal officers, contact information, and a $250 fee. Applicants will now be asked directly to apply for a social equity license rather than being awarded social equity “bonus points” on their application. Approved applications will be entered into a 55-license lottery to be held later this year, the report says.
Under the new rules, each applicant will be allowed one application, as opposed to 10 in the past, and the state says the change will allow for more start-ups. The updates will go live near the end of the summer or fall. If selected, potential licensees must prove their social equity status to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, the Tribune notes.
“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.” — Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), in a statement this week
In order to qualify for a social equity license in Illinois, an applicant must have majority ownership by someone living in an area disproportionately affected by poverty and cannabis arrests, have been previously convicted of a low-level cannabis crime, or have a family member with a low-level cannabis charge.
The state’s previous social equity attempts had been derailed by lawsuits challenging the application process. Plaintiffs had argued that similar applications had been scored more favorably when submitted by white and/or more politically connected applicants. Meanwhile, minority applicants have complained that the two years of delay have cost them thousands of dollars and prevented them from entering the space while larger companies have taken control of the Illinois cannabis industry.
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