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Illinois cannabis business owners and advocates warn program is on “the verge of collapse”

In an unsurprising twist, advocates are saying their state’s social equity program is not working.  This time it’s Illinois’ program that is on “the verge of collapse,” reports ABC7 Chicago.

“I’m waving a flag for Governor Pritzker and Illinois legislators… And who’s being hurt? It’s us. The very people who this program is meant to help,” said Ambrose Jackson of the 1937 Group at a press conference outside the State of Illinois building with Chicago NORML and Cannabis Equity Illinois. 

So what’s sending the program toward collapse? According to the group, it’s the rules and regulations in place. The state has issued 182 of the 185 promised social equity licenses. Once recipients receive their license, they have 180 days to open their doors and get final approval from the state. Some will need to finalize their financing beforehand, made difficult by the fact that cannabis businesses cannot secure traditional banking. 

ABC7 Chicago reports that most businesses have not begun building facilities and are far from ready to operate in that timeline. 

Additionally, license holders cannot make any changes to the ownership reported on their initial applications until they’ve had a final state inspection. The problem? It can cost between $500,000 to $1 million or more to launch a dispensary. To get to that point, many license holders need to seek out investors

Though the 1937 group recently secured $17 million in funding, Jackson says it took a long time and added that he doesn’t “believe it’s going to work for most people.” 

“Three years in, and we still don’t have any Black-owned cannabis operators,” expressed Douglas Kelly, head of the Cannabis Equity Illinois Coalition. 

Unsurprisingly again, Governor Pritzker’s office issued a statement in response that read: “The governor looks forward to continuing to work with the General Assembly on streamlining the process and helping social equity applicants enter and thrive in the industry.” 

We look forward to seeing that, too, Pritzker. 

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