Illinois hands out first social equity cannabis retail licenses

Published on November 15, 2022
Illinois State House Capitol on a cloudy winter day - Springfield (state capitol series). The statue of Abraham Lincoln was dedicated on October 5, 1918, the centennial of the first meeting of the Illinois General Assembly.

This article was written by Joana Scopel and was originally published on Benzinga.

Illinois recently issued 185 total adult-use marijuana dispensary licenses to social equity applicants.

“We look forward to getting these businesses up and running, creating jobs in the communities most harmed by the failed drug war, and cementing ownership in Illinois’ cannabis industry as the most diverse in the nation,” said Gov. JB Pritzker.

Now, an ownership group comprised of “wealthy and connected” Chicago entrepreneurs has received one of the first social equity recreational marijuana retail licenses issued by the state’s regulators.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Green Rose Dispensary will open its doors soon in a prominent location in the city’s River North area. The state also issued a permit to a second equity dispensary, Ivy Hall Damen*, in the city’s Wicker Park area, which opened its doors on November 14.

Green Rose qualified for an equity permit by hiring employees who had minor marijuana-related convictions or live in areas with high rates of cannabis arrests or poverty. Its owners include Thomas Wheeler Jr., a former Chicago police detective, and narcotics-unit veteran.

Additionally, the state is offering a total of $8.75 million in forgivable loans to conditionally approved social equity cannabis licensees “in order to provide immediate access to capital” after challenges with a previous loan program.

Will social equity in Illinois live up to the hype?

According to a recent news release from Gov. Pritzker and the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, “pending the completion of a simplified documentation process, forgivable loan amounts between $50,000-$500,000 will be released immediately.”

With retail sales beginning on January 1, 2020, Illinois was the first state to authorize licenses.

However, lawsuits and other delays prevented retailers in the social equity program from opening immediately, with some having to wait nearly three years to obtain a license to operate.

*Editor’s note: Ivy Hall Damen is a minority-owned business with 61% Black ownership.

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