Illinois Issues 149 New Recreational Marijuana Dispensary Licenses | Government and politics

Robert McCoppinChicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Illinois issued 149 new recreational marijuana dispensary licenses on Friday, marking a long-awaited step forward in the state’s efforts to expand and diversify the industry.

But due to the time it takes to start such a business, many stores may not open until next year.

Most of the new cannabis retail stores are planned for the Chicago metro area and will more than double the current 110 medical and recreational stores. Of the new licensees, 41% are majority black, 7% white, and 4% Latino, while 38% did not disclose the race of their owners.

Until now, pot business ownership in the state has been almost exclusively male and white.

Ambrose Jackson, CEO of Parkway Dispensary in Danville, said he was relieved to finally receive the licensing notice.

“It’s amazing,” he said, “It hasn’t quite settled in yet, because we’ve been in this waiting pattern for two years. It’s a big deal.

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His team, The 1937 Group, will soon decide whether to operate in an existing building, which could take three months to convert, or build from scratch, which could take at least six months.

The new licenses are “conditional”, which means that licensees must meet various requirements before being issued their final licenses to open their doors.

Businesses have 180 days to select a location and begin operations, and can request another 180-day extension if needed. Another 36 dispensary licenses in the state are expected to be issued in August.

Many licenses had been delayed for more than two years due to coronavirus-related disruptions, problems with the application scoring process and court orders delaying licensing while lawsuits challenged the process.

Delays cost many business owners tens of thousands of dollars in lost rent or land acquisition costs. Startups have struggled to secure funding while licensing has been in limbo, and some will likely sell to larger corporate chains as part of the growing industry’s ongoing consolidation, which is approaching the $2 billion in annual sales in Illinois.

Social Equity Licensees, generally defined as those in poor neighborhoods or areas with a high rate of cannabis-related arrests, may be eligible for low-interest loans through the Department of Illinois Trade and Economic Opportunities. The first set of companies are expected to finalize loan agreements with state partner lending institutions in the coming weeks.

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