Limits on recreational marijuana sellers raise concerns among activists, applicants

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Governor Pritzker signed a bill making minor changes to the state’s recreational marijuana law Wednesday, as he addresses concerns raised by people who want to delay the start of the program.

Alicia Moore, an urban framer on Chicago’s west side, is an expert in genetics and plant science who hopes to get in on Illinois’ new recreational cannabis industry.

"I think I’ll be able to grow cannabis with my background of course," Moore said.

According to Moore, she and her business partners have the money needed to obtain a dispensary license, but under the Illinois cannabis law she’ll have to wait. Only 30 Illinois medical dispensaries have been given licenses to sell recreational pot beginning January 1.

"It just kind of seems like they will be able to corner the market, get consumers — loyal consumers — coming to their dispensaries first," Moore said.

She and others who want a piece of the action will have to wait until more licenses are awarded in May, but some Chicago aldermen say that’s not fair. The City Council’s Black Caucus said Wednesday it intends to delay the sale of recreational marijuana in Chicago until July.

"We’re concerned, we’re worried because so far its been white males dominating the whole process," said Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward).

Governor Pritzker and state lawmakers who back the law call the program the most “equity-centric” in the nation.

"We are having people look at us from around the country and around the world to talk about the equity provisions that are in this effort," said Toi Hutchison, a senior advisor on cannabis policy for Gov. Pritzker.

Next Tuesday the state will begin accepting “social equity” applicants, prioritizing minorities who will be able to get loans to for their business. As Prizker signed a bill to tweak the recreational cannabis law Wednesday, he seemed to acknowledge that some people are frustrated.

"We want the industry to be diverse. We want black and brown people, we want people who have been left out and left behind to have a real opportunity to not only benefit from this industries but to create new millionaires in the black community, in the Latino community," Pritzker said.

Pritzker says there will be a study to make sure that Illinois’ cannabis program is truly helping those hurt by the war on drugs. As for sales in Chicago, the black aldermen want a delay, but it’s not clear they have the votes.

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