May 25, 2022 - Business

Courts may release marijuana dispensary licenses

Weed sign

A food truck sits outside a Sunnyside Cannabis Dispensary in Chicago in January 2020. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images

It could be a huge week for the state's maligned marijuana industry.

  • Cook County Circuit Court may remove the injunction that has kept 185 social-equity applicants from receiving their dispensary licenses.

Why it matters: Illinois set out to be the nation's most socially equitable cannabis state after legalizing marijuana in 2019. But almost three years later, the state has almost no operating minority-owned dispensaries.

Context: After a confusing lottery process, a lawsuit was filed in the court and a judge ruled to halt all new licenses until the process played out.

Driving the news: The applicant who originally filed the lawsuit now wants the court to lift the stay.

What they're saying: "Illinois is way behind where it wanted to be on owner diversity, product availability, industry revenue growth and more because of the stay," Grown In editor Mike Fourcher tells Axios.

  • "I hope the judge removes the stay and the state goes along with it because there are still no minorities in the cannabis business," former state senator and dispensary license-holder Rickey Hendon tells Axios.

What's next: The judge could rule as early as Friday. If the stay is removed, minority applicants can proceed in setting up their businesses, finding space and opening dispensaries. But it's been almost 29 months, which could create financial barriers.

  • "Will all those social-equity teams just sell their licenses?" Fourcher says. "Lots of large, out-of-state companies are counting on that to build their Illinois presence at fire-sale prices."

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