Pot Entrepreneurs Get Another Shot From the State

Would-be pot entrepreneurs initially shut out of the chance for a coveted cannabis dispensary license appreciate that they’re getting a second shot, but they say Illinois needs to do more to make good on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s promise for social equity.

Pritzker on Tuesday explained why he’s putting a pause on the lottery for 75 pot shop licenses, which was set to take place this month.

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“What we’re attempting to accomplish is hard to do and takes time to accomplish but we have an obligation to make sure that it gets a strong start and as strong a start as possible,” Pritzker said. “Over the last several weeks we’ve listened to community leaders and legislators and heard the voices of unsuccessful applicants, and across the board in a process that should be characterized by equity to its core, too many people have said that more needs to be done to ensure fairness.”

The state earlier this month announced that only 21 finalists made it to the stage where they could win up to 10 of the 75 licenses, leaving behind thousands.

Now those unsuccessful applicants will be notified of when and how they missed out on points that would have put them into the lottery, and give the applicants a chance to submit more information or to request their original application get graded a second time.

In this round, government employees will do the judging rather than KPMG, the firm that was paid thousands by the state to assess the first round of applications.

Pritzker said he expects that will be done this fall, even though KPMG required four extra months to complete its work; the government has cited the coronavirus as the reason behind that delay.

Belicia Royster of the Social Equity Empowerment Network said she’s thankful that Pritzker listened to criticism and is reconsidering the process.

“Pausing the lottery and properly allowing applicants to cure their deficiencies is just a start in the right direction,” she said.

Royster and other social equity advocates who had applied for dispensary licenses say Illinois should also disclose is scoring rubric and create a community organization of Black and Brown stakeholders to help monitor the process in the future.

The Pritzker administration, per state law, plans to conduct a study of how the first 75 pot shop licenses were awarded before handing out additional licenses.

But Royster’s group is calling on Illinois to give out more than 75 licenses so more social equity applicants can get into the marijuana industry as sales are soaring.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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