CHICAGO (CBS)– With legal marijuana sales now underway in Illinois, entrepreneurs hoping for a piece of the pot pie are running out of time to apply for a license to open a recreational cannabis dispensary.
Thursday is the deadline to apply for a recreational dispensary license, and applicants must submit their paperwork by 4 p.m.
Close to 300 people lined up Thursday morning at the Thompson Center to submit their applications.
With strains of legal weed being sold across Illinois, and no minority-owned dispensaries in Chicago, several people are feeling stranded.
“It’s a $30 billion industry, and we own less than 1% of it,” said Danny Joe Sorge, a black business owner who lined up at the Thompson Center to apply for a dispensary license.
Sorge said he believes minorities deserve a cut of the pot profits, considering the impact the war on drugs has had on the black and brown communities.
“The trailblazers who forged the path that this new green economy lays its tracks upon deserve not only comfortable seats on these bullet trains of corporate cannabis; but also integral roles as conductors, engineers, and owners of our own locomotives,” he said.
Sorge isn’t standing alone. The state has developed a social equity program meant to help minorities apply for dispensary licenses. Some of the perks include an opportunity to earn extra points on the application, a discounted application fee, and a 51% minority ownership rule.
Luzmaria Cortez said she helped fight for the social equity program’s implementation.
“I have, personally, a lot of people in my family and friends that have been incarcerated for cannabis,” she said. “I actually sold when I was younger while I was in school. … I had to do what I could for my family.”
Cortez she hopes to help her community build “generational wealth” through legal marijuana sales.
Toi Hutchinson, the senior advisor to the governor on cannabis, helped develop the state’s social equity system for legal marijuana dispensaries. She admitted the program has its limits so far, the biggest being the hundreds of thousands of dollars in needed startup costs being hard to come by.
“It’s just fundamentally unfair to think about licensing people to participate in an activity that destroyed whole communities,” she said.
Once Thursday’s application deadline passes, entrepreneurs hoping to open a cannabis dispensary will have to wait until May 1 for the licenses to be awarded.