Here’s the latest on a new bill that will lead to a bunch of new pot shops opening in Illinois

Here’s the latest on a new bill that will lead to a bunch of
new pot shops opening in Illinois 1

Here’s the latest on a new law that paves the way for nearly 200 new pot shops to open in Illinois:

What happened?

The General Assembly approved legislation last week aimed at resolving an impasse over how to diversify the state’s weed industry that currently has no pot shops run by owners of color.

How many new dispensaries are expected to open in Illinois?

Once Gov. J.B. Pritzker makes good on his promise to sign the bill into law, the state will unleash a flood of licenses giving operators the right to open 195 new weed stores.

Where will the new dispensaries be?

About 119 are expected to open in a region that covers Chicago and the suburbs.

Who can win the new pot shop licenses?

Most of them will go to so-called social equity applicants who applied in January 2020 for a batch of 75 pot shop permits. The awarding of those licenses has been delayed for more than a year after a controversy prompted a series of lawsuits and led to the new legislation.

What’s a social equity applicant?

The designation created to diversify the cannabis industry initially gave a leg-up to applicants who either live in an area that’s been adversely impacted by the drug war or have a cannabis-related criminal record or a family member who does. Groups initially were also able to qualify by hiring a workforce that mostly includes those individuals.

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How will the next dispensary licenses be handed out?

There will be four lotteries to determine who gets the right to open the stores:

  • The 75 delayed licenses will be dished out to existing candidates that earn a perfect application score.
  • Fifty-five new recreational dispensary licenses will be issued to existing applicants that scored slightly lower.
  • Another 55 licenses will be determined through the Social Equity Justice Involved Lottery. In this lottery applicant groups can’t qualify by simply hiring individuals with social equity status. They must be majority owners.
  • Five additional licenses covering 10 stores will go to new applicants that meet the same qualifications as those in the other social justice lottery. These will be open to new applicants.

How soon could the new dispensary licenses be issued?

Rickey Hendon, a former state senator and spokesman for social equity applicants, has urged Pritzker to start releasing the new dispensary licenses within the next 30 days. Toi Hutchinson, Pritzker’s chief cannabis adviser, said that goal is “close” to obtainable and confirmed that a revised scoring process is roughly 95% complete: “This is going to be a very busy summer.”

How soon could new pot shops start opening in Illinois?

That’s unclear, given that after the licenses are issued operators will also have to earn local zoning approval from cities and towns where they want to locate. But Hendon, who helped draft the new bill, said potential new owners hope to start setting up shop by the fall.

What could complicate the process?

Lawsuits that were filed in connection to the initial delayed licensing round are still pending and more could potentially be brought based on the new legislation.

How does this impact Illinois’ retail pot market?

Substantially. The market is currently larger than it’s ever been, with 110 dispensaries now licensed to sell both recreational and medical marijuana. Many are operated by multi-billion companies that operate in multiple states.

How much could this boost marijuana sales?

Total cannabis sales surpassed $1 billion last year, the first year of legal recreational weed in Illinois, and this year’s totals are on pace to top that. Dispensaries have sold more than $510 million in recreational weed through May and medical sales jumped above $133 million by the end of April. Nearly tripling the number of stores will almost certainly lead to a big boost in sales.

What other licenses need to be handed out?

Regulators have also held up 40 craft cultivation permits, 40 infusion permits and an unlimited number of licenses to transport cannabis products. A Pritzker spokeswoman said a supplementary scoring process is “expected to conclude in the coming weeks.”

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