Three local organizations are banding together in an effort to bring more equity to the Illinois marijuana industry.
In 2019, Illinois passed what has been called by some one of the most equitable marijuana legalization laws. One of its purposes was to ensure Black and Brown people had an opportunity to own stores in the state. But more than two years since its passing, many of those trying to get a license to operate a marijuana retailer say state regulations make it nearly impossible to raise money to open their businesses.
Kiana Hughes, executive director of Chicago NORML, which advocates for minority opportunities in the industry, says there are too many obstacles when it comes to opening a dispensary.
“One of the rules … is being interpreted [as] saying that you cannot sell or exchange any portion of ownership or equity in your company in order to get investors for your business,” Hughes said, adding that this makes it very difficult for license owners to raise capital and open their doors.
Deputy Gov. Christian Mitchell says the issue is not so simple.
Mitchell says that on one side of the argument you have owners “pretty much saying, ‘Hey, wait a second, we’ve got principal officers who have been holding this for a couple of years, they’re people of color we want that growth in this industry,’” Mitchell said. “What we don’t want is some of these predatory folks who say I’ll give you some cash, but you’ve got to give me a majority stake in your business.”
Mitchell says these are nuanced debates that need to be had for the future of social equity in the industry.