Illinois cannabis license lottery winners face supply chain challenges

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SPRINGFIELD – After more than a year of delays, 55 new cannabis dispensary licenses have been awarded in a lottery – but the winners may face further delays and challenges.

The winners were chosen from a pool of 626 applicants who scored 85% or greater on their applications. Since Illinois legalized recreational marijuana last year, only previously existing medical marijuana dispensaries have been allowed to also open retail shops.

A lack of cannabis flower could mean further delays for the new license holders who had to wait because of the pandemic and legal challenges to the application process.

Pam Althoff, executive director of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois, said the state will have to assist growers in any way it can.

“Its tremendously important for the Department of Ag to give everybody the availability to expand to their highest level so that we can get that raw material out so these products will meet the demand once these dispensaries come online,” Althoff said.

Another obstacle faces lottery winners. A Cook County judge issued an emergency order that allowed Illinois to go forward with the lottery, but restricted the state from awarding licenses to the winners. On Aug. 9, a group of dispensary applicants will argue in court that the veteran’s bonus points tallied in the application scoring process creates a special class of applicants, which is illegal under the Illinois constitution.

A large majority of those who qualified of the lottery were social equity applicants, meaning they lives in areas designated as disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, spearheaded an effort to increase equity into the Illinois cannabis industry.

“The people that were negatively impacted by marijuana that they have an advantage, and so the industry still doesn’t reflect that but it is moving and trending in that direction,” Ford said. “You gotta start somewhere.”

Winners in last week’s lottery were located in all areas of the state, including Bloomington, Carbondale, Champaign, Decatur and Kankakee. They must pay the state $30,000 per license and meet other stipulations before receiving a conditional license.

With multiple dispensary locations expected in many Illinois towns, Althoff said she expects a more competitive market to be good for consumers’ pocketbooks.

“You would think that there would be a good competitive atmosphere, and I could point to a few areas where that is exactly what’s going on,” Althoff said.

Kevin Bessler The Center Square