More than a year after the legal recreational marijuana industry began in Illinois, there remains a glaring void among minority-owned companies.
When Governor Pritzker and Springfield lawmakers pushed for recreational cannabis use, they said it was with an eye to justice. The pharmacies opened nationwide on January 1, 2020. But 15 months later, there are no minority-owned cannabis companies in the state.
The Illinois cannabis business had sales of $ 1 billion in its first year of legality. However, social justice is still in the works.
“You cannot say that justice is at stake and that women and men in these communities stay outside,” said Tyrone Muhammad at a press conference Tuesday, which advocates increasing and expanding the ownership of blacks and browns in the cannabis room.
With the state nearly a year behind in issuing new licenses, minority investors and activists have got the Pritzker administration going.
“We partnered with each other and with the advocacy group to ensure that others who deserved their place at the table can get their piece of cake and eat,” said Kiana Hughes, The Six, representing a group of six Black and Brown owned businesses.
“As The Six, it is not enough for us to be able to eat,” said Hughes. “We want everyone to be capable of everyone.”
In 2019, lawmakers passed the Cannabis Act to help communities hit by the war on drugs.
The state planned to issue 75 licenses before May last year. But the Pritzker administration delayed the process, citing the pandemic. Last September, 21 social justice applicants entered the lottery for the 75 licenses. After various groups complained, the state gave entrepreneurs a second chance. Hopeful minority owners have revised their applications. Now state officials are reviewing the records and more social justice applicants can be added to the lottery.
While waiting, several cannabis cleaning bills move in Springfield. State representative LaShawn Ford is planning legislation that would allow more licenses.
“The truth is, the only way you can fix a problem is to realize that there’s a problem, admit there’s a problem, and start working on it,” said Ford.
The various interest groups are still waiting for the state lottery to issue further licenses. However, some activists say they will not move forward until more minorities become part of the process.
In a statement to WGN News, a spokeswoman for Governor Pritzker said, “The Pritzker administration continues to seek to license and develop an adult cannabis industry in a fair and equitable manner.”
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