CHICAGO (CBS) — The lottery for licenses to run cannabis dispensaries in Illinois is set to happen in the next few weeks.
Gov. JB Pritzker vows there will be social equity as far as who gets those licenses. But several minority leaders call that an empty promise, and say Black and Brown Chicagoans are being ignored.
“It makes no sense that again, in 2020, Governor Pritzker, you have a Black lieutenant governor, you have a Black mayor of Chicago, you have a Black drug czar overseeing the marijuana industry here in Illinois, and you don’t have any Black-owned marijuana dispensaries?” said community activist Tio Hardiman.
“How can the mayor overlook this situation? How can the governor overlook this situation, when it’s supposed to be designed to help poor communities,” said Chicago businessman Dr. Willie Wilson.
Applicants go through a rigorous application process. A total of 700 forms were submitted, and now 21 qualifying finalists will move forward to the lottery for 75 new dispensary licenses.
To qualify as a social equity applicant, a majority of the company’s ownership must either have spent 5 of the last 10 years living in an area disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, or have a prior arrest or conviction for a drug-related crime that is eligible for engagement; or have at least 10 full-time employees, most of whom who would meet the social equity requirements.
Wth so many having had such high hopes in getting in on the pot business, hearing only 21 applicants now qualify for the lottery to get a dispensary license is leaving minority applicants deflated.
“It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth,” Danny Joe Sorge, a social equity applicant, told CBS 2’s Jermont Terry on Friday.
He is disappointed. The owner of a South Side barbershop waited months to see if he would be fortunate enough to get a dispensary license.
“We had high hopes,” he said.
Sorge went through a rigorous application process. A Los Angeles based organization provided the financial backing for him and 29 other social equity applicants to get in the pot game.
“Zero applications that we submitted qualified for the lottery that’s taking place now,” Sorge said.
The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus is asking Gov. Pritzker to take a pause. The group wants to examine the process and make changes if needed to ensure true equity.
CBS 2 has reached out to Gov. Pritzker’s office for comment on the matter and had not heard back as of late Saturday afternoon.
The license lottery has already been delayed due to the pandemic.