Seeking to increase diversity within the cannabis industry, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation will streamline the license application process for marijuana retailers, remove barriers for social equity applicants and expand opportunities for the communities most impacted by the War on Drugs.
According to a March 15 announcement, application fees will be reduced to $250 and the application will be online and limited to basic information such as the name of the organization, list of principal officers and contact information. Approved applicants will be entered into a lottery for at least 50 new retail licenses the state is required by law to issue by the end of the year.
The new, streamlined process is a drastic change from the state’s previous (and infamous) rounds of licensing that cost thousands of dollars to apply, required meticulously detailed plans and suspiciously awarded a select few, white and well-connected businesses. This new process also marks the first time applicants are required to qualify under the state’s definition of social equity — a person or family member with a low-level cannabis offense, or someone living in an area with a high arrest rate for cannabis-related offenses or in a high-poverty area — instead of simply having their social-equity status apply a bonus to the application’s overall score.
“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,” Governor J.B. Pritzker said in a press release.
The application window is expected to open in late summer or by fall 2022.