2021’s Illinois Cannabis Legislative Session & Social Equity
Published April 7, 2021
In this episode of The Cannabis Community Insider, Hosts Abraham Villegas and Mark Peysakhovich check in with social equity champion and Illinois State Representative La Shawn K. Ford who gives our community a legislative update, new developments, and an invitation to continue improving the state’s cannabis laws.
If you have suggestions on how to improve the Illinois Cannabis Law, please email your ideas to [email protected]
Table of Contents
- Hosts introduce the video and mention that they have been away for a few weeks but have worked hard on exciting updates.
- The video will focus on updates related to social equity in Illinois.
Rep. La Shawn Ford on Social Equity (12:00-16:00)
- Illinois State Representative La Shawn Ford is a special guest on the video.
- He has been on the forefront of the conversation related to social equity since last year.
- The goal is to present updates on what’s happening with social equity in Illinois.
- There is a need for an update to clean up the cannabis law that was passed last year.
Updates on Dispensary Licenses (16:00-28:00)
- Illinois will be 12 months late in issuing 75 dispensary licenses.
- On July 1st, the state will be late with 40 craft grower infusion and unlimited transport licenses.
- Currently, no pieces of legislation correct the immediate issues related to dispensary licenses.
- 75 dispensary licenses represent 3,000 jobs and 100 million dollars a year in taxes to Illinois.
- The legislative process involves two houses of the legislature, and bills usually take a few months to go through the committee and the house.
- There is still time to get some kind of resolution to the dispensary licensing issue.
- Representative Ford believes that they are closer than ever to having some social equity licenses.
- Various organizations have been working to combine language with different legislators and the governor to clean up the language and get some true equity in the process.
- There is a need to decide what is the most pressing issue at this time.
- Is it more important to try and correct the whole cannabis law or to try and get this law on track to fulfill its intent?
- The goal is to make sure that people who look like Representative Ford have an opportunity to have a license in Illinois.
- The governor and his team are working with social equity groups and supporting their wishes to clean up the language.
- The goal is to ensure this is not just a white male-run operation.
Stakeholders in the Application Process (28:00-33:00)
- There are a lot of stakeholders at the table, and the state has been treating people in the application process as adversaries rather than partners or customers.
- Representative Ford believes treating all these various stakeholders as partners or customers would be a big win.
- The video concludes with a call to action to continue to work towards social equity in the cannabis industry in Illinois.
Lack of transparency in the application process 08:05
- The current state award process lacks transparency, leaving applicants in the dark.
- The process is compared to keeping legislators as mushrooms, in the dark and not fed.
- Craft grow lawsuits hold up licenses, and the dispensary process is also held up.
- People are waiting for more information from the state.
Urgency of the situation 08:45
- The session is ending in six weeks, and urgency is needed.
- People are wondering if there will be a bill that passes.
Clarification on applicant status 08:56
- The overall state award process has people in the dark, and applicants are like mushrooms.
- The current process for cleaning up language is unrelated to determining the applicant’s status.
- The state’s timeline and next steps remain unclear.
Legislative fix and the need for applicants 11:03
- A legislative fix is being attempted, requiring applicants and stakeholders to agree.
- This process can prevent lawsuits, which is why everyone must be included.
- Applicants, stakeholders, and groups must be fair in recognizing that compromise is necessary.
- The legislative fix is about compromising, and it’s difficult to please everyone.
The lottery issue 14:11
- Before anything else happens on cannabis, there has to be a solution to the lottery issue.
- A solution needs to be found first before anything else happens.
- The first thing that needs to be done is to get the applicants and the lottery done.
First round of applicants 15:13
- The first round of applicants is expected to run once the deficiency cures have been completed.
- While there might be very few black and brown people in the first round, there will be some.
- This is good news for the applicants waiting for a long time.
The delicacy of the process 16:05
- The legislative process is delicate, and everyone must be included.
- The process is about compromise and ensuring everyone gets at least what they need.
Second Round of Licenses 15:44
- There is a plan to set up a second round of licenses.
- The purpose of the second round is to clean up some of the unintended consequences of the first law.
- The second round will help individuals to have an opportunity to be in the cannabis business without needing to have a veteran.
- The second round will also help to make sure that individuals can participate in the business.
- There is talk of a third round, which could be a true social justice round where black and brown people will have a better chance of being selected in the lottery.
Allowing Dispensaries to Move 16:42
- There is talk about having some type of compromise on allowing dispensaries to move.
- There has been some pushback on allowing dispensaries to move.
- There is always a right way to do something; the moves should be controlled and condensed.
- This could be a way to make sure that there is an agreement between the parties.
- A 1A lottery will be conducted for the 21 that initially got perfect scores plus anyone who gets a perfect score after the supplemental rescore round.
- The second round of licenses will be open to everyone, and people in 1A can’t do 1B.
- The people in 1B will have a score above 85%.
- The third round will be determined based on how many people are left behind after the first round.
- The goal of the Illinois cannabis law is to get people that were impacted by the war on drugs to be a part of this emerging market.
New Applicants 22:44
- There are a lot of people who want to get into the cannabis business that may have not applied yet.
- There is a question of whether new applicants will be allowed to apply.
Application Process Changes 22:49
- The state is working to create a new, less confusing and difficult application process than the previous one.
- This process is being developed to accommodate new applications.
- The state is also working on a new way of scoring applications.
- The previous application scoring system will be discarded.
Need for Diversity in Cannabis 24:15
- The goal is to make the industry more diverse.
- Social equity applicants are concerned that current operators are taking up prime locations, leaving them with poorer locations.
- Social equity applicants are projecting their models based on a $1.5 billion market. Still, they are not accounting for the fact that no social equity license will have access to the current medical population.
- This makes it difficult for social equity applicants to compete against current operators who have that market cornered.
Social Equity Medical Lottery 25:52
- One idea is to create a social equity medical lottery to issue five medical cannabis dispensaries.
- This will help with the concern that social equity applicants will not have access to the current medical population.
- This will allow social equity applicants to compete.
Advice for Applicants 26:18
- Applicants should act as though they will receive a license and prepare accordingly.
- Applicants must ensure that they have their foundation to take advantage of the license once received.
- This requires applicants to balance their social justice focus with their business focus.
Communication with Applicants 28:06
- An email has been set up for people to send recommendations for cannabis law and cleanup language.
- The goal is to respect the process and ensure everyone is at the table.
- There is no public language yet because they have not agreed.
Importance of being at the table 29:52
- There is an opportunity for those who were not at the table before to find their place and not give it up again.
- Advocates and applicants sometimes have a hard time trusting the process, but there is no reason not to have trust when being asked to come to the table.
- Complaining that one is not at the table and then complaining about being asked to be at the table is contradictory.
- It is up to individuals to decide whether they want to come to the table.
Acknowledging Advocates 30:25
- The speaker acknowledges the efforts of advocates and applicants in bringing together disparate interests from industry to social justice advocates.
Upcoming Legislation 31:48
- The next few years will see many other things happening in the cannabis industry.
- The focus, for now, is on the single lottery bill, and everyone is encouraged to push in the same direction.
- The speaker expects to have a bill filed early next week and pass it to the senate immediately.
Support from Governor JB Pritzker 32:37
- The speaker credits Governor JB Pritzker for his support and direct communication.
- The administration provides all the technical assistance and legal support needed to ensure everything is done right.
- Speaker Welch also supports the efforts, and his staff is helping with the language.
Future Legislation 34:48
- The speaker suggests having a town hall soon to get everybody’s suggestions for future rounds of legislation.
Did you enjoy this episode? Watch the rest of our shows here!