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Illinois Social Equity System Struggling to Include People of Color

Illinois Social Equity System Struggling to Include People of Color

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Illinois has reaped tax revenues from cannabis sales close to those generated by the sale of alcohol in the state, with cannabis bringing in over $1 billion. There are currently no minority-owned cannabis businesses in the state and a program intended to allocate a portion of the licenses for cannabis business owners in the state to communities of color appears to be falling short.

21 entrants were chosen in the first set of applications for the 75 licenses available in the initial round of the lottery system. While only six of the entrants are said to be minority-owned all of the 21 entrants were identified by the state to have qualified under the social equity requirements.

Each applicant qualified for as many as 10 of the 75 cannabis retail outlet licenses in the lottery system. Those 21 initial applicants ended up getting all of the available lottery slots, compromising the plans of the state, and creating the need for a second lottery. Those plans fell short, though, when the legislative session ended on January 13, as a second lottery would require approval by the legislature.
Several of the social equity applicants, frustrated about being sidelined by the process, have filed suit resulting in the lottery process being temporarily halted.

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The winners of the lottery then also sued, frustrated that the process had been stalled, and leaving lawmakers to try to figure out a way to fulfill its commitment to embedding social equity into the process and correct the application system.
Democratic state Senator Heather Steans, who was involved in creating the social equity law, has found the shortfall “incredibly frustrating.” She is working with other lawmakers to make changes in the legislation that will allow for the goal to include people of color in the ownership of retail cannabis stores in the state.

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