Members of the Illinois Black and Latino caucuses are publicly questioning the state’s decision to only allow 21 of the 700 ownership groups that applied to vie for the state’s 75 dispensary licenses and calling on the governor to be more transparent in how decisions are made.
“In this moment
, Illinois has more tools to do right by our constituents than ever,” the Illinois Black Caucus said in a statement directed at Governor J.B. Pritzker. “We voted for a law that had a framework for the administration to create more Black and Latino cannabis startups than any other state in the country. That’s why we were shocked to see that up to 75 dispensaries will be awarded to 21 entities.”
In a press conference, Pritzker said social equity is a “marathon, not a sprint” and that all of the finalists in this round are social equity applicants.
“Two-thirds of the applicants were 51% owned by those who come from disproportionately impacted areas, 62% of the owners are controlled by people of color,” Gov. Pritzker said.
Illinois Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer Toi Hutchinson said that 13 of 21 finalists are “owners of color” but said “there’s still so much further to go,” adding that additional changes to the process are being considered, such as limiting how many licenses an ownership group can apply for to help “regular folk” compete with “heavy money interest.”
Additionally, two of the 679 unsuccessful applicants have filed a suit against the state’s dispensary regulatory agency, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, and the deputy director of its Cannabis Control Section, Bret Bender, in hopes of delaying the licensing process. The lawsuit alleges that one of the 21 successful applicants lists a risk consultant for KPMG, the firm paid to score the dispensary applications, as a manager.
A KPMG spokesman said in a statement that the individual listed as a manager for the successful applicant was not involved in the scoring process.
Pritzker said he is open to minor tweaks to the program but the process needs to move forward before he will consider sweeping changes.