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Minority Applicants Disappointed In Social Equity For New Cannabis Dispensary Licenses

By Jermont Terry September 4, 2020 at 10:53 pm

CHICAGO (CBS) — Since legalizing marijuana in Illinois the state has raked in millions in revenue, but as Illinois moved forward with handing out its first round of new licenses, many aren’t convinced there is social equity in the pot game.

So many had such high hopes in getting in on the pot business, yet hearing who now qualifies for the lottery to get a dispensary license is leaving minority applicants deflated.

“It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth,” said Danny Joe Sorge, a social equity applicant. 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.

There were 700 applications submitted, and now now 21 qualifying finalists will move forward to the lottery for 75 new dispensary licenses.

Legalizing cannabis in Illinois included making sure so-called “social equity” owners were included. All 21 finalists qualify as those social quality owners,

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.

“The intent of the law perhaps was followed, but the spirit of the law and the bill to provide social equity applicants a leg up on the application process seems to have backfired if you will,” Sorge said.

Democratic State Rep. Sonya Harper from Chicago raised questions, too, saying, “I along with members of the IL Legislative Black are asking the Governor’s office to slow down this licensing process right now so that we may examine it clearly and make changes where needed in order to be truly equitable before we continue the issuance of any more licenses.” CBS 2 reviewed the qualified lottery picks, and it turns out some investors are connected to multiple applications. For example, two application groups have the same owner: Clean Slate Holdings. That’s two companies with 34 applications. Combined they make up about 20% of the applications so far.

“Some of these people are already rich from the cannabis game, and they’re becoming re-rich,” Sorge said.

The lottery for licenses will take place before the end of September. It was delayed due to the COVID0-19 pandemic.



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