Updated on August 18, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
After facing a problem with increased demand, and not enough whole flower for medical marijuana patients in the state, Illinois has made a move to solve the problem. The state finally cleared a major legal and administrative hurdle that had stopped 75 marijuana dispensaries from receiving licenses. May 1st was the date that the dispensary licenses were supposed to get issued, but pandemic delays ensued.
The dispensary licenses could not get awarded until rules got established for breaking ties between the applicants. The state made an announcement on Wednesday that has adopted permanent tie-breaking rules. It gave a clear indication that it is now ready to move on to awarding the dispensary licenses. There is a point system that is used to determine which businesses are awarded cannabis licenses in Illinois.
Currently, there are more than 700 applicants that are seeking cannabis business licenses in Illinois. According to a statement by Toi Hutchinson, senior adviser to Gov. J.B. Pritzker on cannabis control, “The state is looking forward to awarding them later in September. But now the administration looks forward to finishing the initial round of applications in the weeks to come. The disparity study will begin and ensure that our goals of creating a diverse, equitable cannabis industry in Illinois are adhered to”.
Concerns Over Delays
Cannabis dispensary owners have expressed concern over the delays. They stated that the delays are causing them severe financial hardship. The state of Illinois has also been more than a month late on awarding licenses to 40 craft grow, 40 infusers, and an undetermined number for transporter, or secure transportation of cannabis products in-state.
According to the state, the reviewing of those applications is in the final stages. The Illinois Department of Agriculture is expected to announce the dates that the next set of licenses will be awarded soon. The licenses will be the first to be issued by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to anyone apart from the few dozen medical dispensaries that got awarded licenses before the legalization of adult-use cannabis.
These new licenses will also be the first to be awarded after a scoring process that includes points for social equity applicants according to last year’s Cannabis Legalization and Tax Act. Issuance of cannabis business licenses to POC (people of color) per the social equity laws has been a source of contention in 2020.
Illinois Not Indicating How Many Cannabis Business Licenses Will Be Issued for the State
“We are pleased that these rules are in place. We remain unwavering in our commitment to ensuring these licenses are issued in a fair and objective way that implements Illinois’ equity-centric law,” said Toi Hutchinson.
“Additional licenses will be available in the coming years. These rules will help ensure a strong foundation is established for the licensing process in the future,” Hutchinson further added.
According to the new rules, the applicants who are eligible for new licenses in a similar region and have tied scores on their applications will only be decided by a drawing of lots after a public notice process. After the state issues a conditional license, it is up to the licensee to finalize the dispensary’s legal operation location within 180 days.
There is no specific timeline for when these new licenses will get issued. Instead, the IDFPR could only say that the new licenses will be issued in the “coming weeks” or “near future.” How many cannabis business licenses will be issued for the state in total remains uncertain.