Cannabis legislation to diversify industry approved by Illinois Senate, heads to Pritzker

SPRINGFIELD — New lotteries designed to make it more likely for minorities to become owners of marijuana dispensaries received approval Friday from the Illinois Senate.

House Bill 1443 was passed on a vote of 50-3, with one lawmaker voting present. The legislation now goes to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk for his signature.

The bill would put in place a major revamp of the process for awarding 110 more recreational marijuana dispensary licenses to diversify ownership in the state’s legal cannabis industry by race, ethnicity and gender.

The bill received bipartisan approval Tuesday in the Illinois House on a 70-33 vote.

Sponsored in the House by state Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, the bill is the Democratic-controlled legislature’s first tweak in the 2019 law that paved the way for the state’s legal marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries that serve customers 21 and older.

The legislation is expected to lead to the state’s issuance of 75 dispensary licenses that have been delayed more than a year.

According to Ford, the bill would ease complaints and result in the withdrawal of lawsuits over the way applications for the 75 licenses were evaluated by state officials.


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After a lottery to determine winners among top-scoring applications for the 75 licenses, Ford’s bill would set up lotteries for awarding the next 110 licenses, in two equal batches, that would make “social-equity” applicants more likely to qualify for lotteries.

Social-equity applicants include entrepreneurs from low-income neighborhoods or who had been arrested on marijuana charges or had immediate family members who had been arrested.

After the 75 licenses are awarded, applications for the next 110 licenses could qualify for a lottery if they scored 85% or better on state criteria rather than the perfect scores required previously, Ford said.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, the minority spokesman on the House Redistricting Committee, calls the remap process “one of the most shameful things that I’ve seen and (the Democrats) know it.”

BRENDEN MOORE, Lee Enterprises

The bill would allow social-equity applicants who win licenses to locate their dispensaries closer than 1,500 feet from an established dispensary unless local ordinances prohibited the option. Current state law prohibits dispensaries from opening closer than 1,500 feet apart.

The bill also would allow existing dispensaries to move within a municipality with that municipality’s approval.

Pritzker has commended the legislation, issuing a news release after the House vote that said, “We’re ensuring that communities that have been left out and left behind have new opportunities to access the cannabis industry.”

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Region: Decatur,City: Decatur,Politics,Region: Central

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May 29, 2021 at 03:23PM

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