CHICAGO (CBS) — In three weeks, you can legally buy recreational marijuana in Illinois.
And Tuesday is the first day people who want to sell it can hand-in applications for one of the remaining licences.
Why is that important?
Because the state wants to make sure minorities get their fair share.
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole talked to the state’s drug czar who admits that may become a challenge.
At the heels of granting licences to sell marijuana for legal use is the memory of a war on drugs critics said targeted minorities.
“It’s fundamentally unfair to think about licensing people to participate in an activity that destroyed whole communities.”
Former Illinois State Senator Toi Hutchinson is now Governor JB Pritzker’s special adviser on cannabis.
She said developing the state’s unique system called Social Equity, meant to give impacted minority-owned businesses a better shot at receiving one of the first 75 sales licences, had its limits.
“How can we do it differently in a way that will stand up in court,” Hutchinson wondered.
CBS 2 spoke to discouraged minority entrepreneurs like George Eskridge from Englewood.
“People like me are going to be left out again,” Eskridge said.
They had hope for the discounted application fee, and a 51% minority ownership rule. But the hundreds of thousands of dollars in needed startup costs are hard to come by. Many said they have to reach out to investors to get the right amount of funds and those investors don’t look like them.
“That would be the guys who want to piggyback to get a license that’s already got big money,” Eskridge said.
CBS 2 showed those concerns to Hutchinson.
“Yes, it’s frustrating. That’s the only thing we can say to them. This is a difficult industry to get into. The only thing we can do is show them what it is that we’ve been doing to try and change it.”
“Hell no it ain’t fair,” Eskridge said.
Applications are graded on a 250-point scale. Social Equity entrepreneurs can earn as many as 50 extra points for their business plans and there are provisions to change ownership requirements if this first phase falls short.
“We need to give it a chance to see if we figure this out. I can tell you this: nobody else has,” Hutchinson said.
The state’s approach is extremely deliberate. Only 10% of the state’s total remaining licenses are being award in the first phase that will become May.
There may be changes as Illinois enters the world of legal weed.