With Chicago weeks away from opening the weed gates to recreational cannabis use, black aldermen on Wednesday again complained white dispensary operators will get too big a head start on the lucrative business, and argued broad legalization should be stalled until midyear.
The City Council hearing on Black Caucus Chairman Ald. Jason Ervin’s ordinance to push back the start date on recreational sales until July 1, 2020, did not include a vote on his proposal. That clears the way for the state law to take effect on Jan. 1.
They didn’t have a vote because that hearing was all for show. Something else may be going on there.
* What Ervin and others, including in the media, have failed to focus on is why it’s important to social equity applicants to get this program up and running…
Toi Hutchinson, a key architect of the legalization law and the governor’s top pot adviser, added that “January 1 is just the beginning” of the rollout of the cannabis law.
So far, 14 of Illinois’ 21 current cultivation centers have earned licenses to grow recreational weed and 30 of the state’s 55 existing dispensaries have been awarded licenses to sell both medical and recreational pot.
To earn those licenses, existing operators had to cough up hefty application fees that will form the economic bedrock of the social equity program. Dispensary owners will also have to make another contribution to the state’s cannabis business development fund, which will be used to offer fee relief, loans and technical assistance to equity candidates.
The statute lays out what those fees will pay for. Here are some bullet points I’ve made that were taken from the statute…
* Grants and low-interest loans to social equity applicants to help start and operate cannabis businesses;
* Outreach programs to attract and support social equity applicants;
* Studies on the participation of minorities, women, veterans, or people with disabilities in the cannabis industry, including, without limitation, barriers to such individuals entering the industry as equity owners of cannabis business establishments;
* Job training and technical assistance for residents in Disproportionately Impacted Areas.
Any delay by Chicago would hurt all of these programs.
To date, only 30 dispensary licenses have been issued. The state expects 500 by the time the program is fully deployed. Next week, regulators will begin accepting applications from so-called “equity” applicants from traditionally disadvantaged communities.
“In Illinois we’re different,” Pritzker said. “Our social equity applicants will be eligible for the 75 licenses that come online in just a few months, and be able to get business loans to get off the ground funded by the existing industry.”
* JB Pritzker signed follow-up cannabis legislation. Here’s what it included.