As businesses apply for right to sell legal weed in Illinois, social equity a top concern

Illinois Recreational Marijuana
Data pix.

CHICAGO — Applicants looking to open one of up to 75 new adult-use cannabis dispensaries in Illinois got their first chance to submit applications Tuesday, including those seeking "social equity" licenses created to spread the benefits of legalization.

When recreational pot becomes legal in Illinois on January 1, big companies will make up the majority of the first wave of sellers. But "social equity" licenses are geared toward smaller operations, and are designed to benefit communities disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition.

In all, the Chicago area could get upwards of 47 more dispensaries from the 75 licenses being offered statewide. Social equity applicants get a leg up in the approval process, and include those with past marijuana-related convictions or those with a majority of owners or employees who come from areas most affected by the war on drugs.

To make sure smaller entrepreneurs get in, Good Tree Capital has pledged low-interest loans for the application fee, as well as startup costs for a cannabis operation. The company will host a workshop this weekend to help navigate the complicated state application process.

The workshop is geared toward small growers and operators like Alicia Nesbary-Moore, who works as an urban farmer on Chicago’s West Side.

"It’s extremely important for minorities to be a part of the industry," Nesbary-Moore said. "I’m looking to be a community-based cannabis... without there being repercussions from the law."

The state won’t say how many applications it received on the first day, but sources tell WGN it wasn’t a high number. Still, there are several weeks to get an application completed.

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