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 day for the state's maligned marijuana industry.

  • The Cook County Circuit Court may remove the injunction that's been keeping 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 court, where a judge ruled to halt all new licenses until the process played out.

Driving the news: The applicant who originally filed the lawsuit was actually awarded two licenses after the state fixed the application process, but now wants the court to lift the stay.

  • It wasn't lifted because the lawsuit was still active.

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 Ricky Hendon tells Axios.

What's next: If the stay is removed, the 185 minority applicants can proceed in setting up their businesses, finding space and opening dispensaries. But it's been almost 29 months and many businesses could be out of money.

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

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