Nov 15, 2022 - Politics

Veto session could fix marijuana social equity problems

Illustration of the Illinois State Capitol building with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Illinois General Assembly starts the 2022 veto session today, a two-week window when lawmakers can amend, update and pass legislation before year-end.

Why it matters: Lawmakers are expected to tweak bills on hot topics, including the SAFE-T Act and social equity provisions of the state's weed law.

Context: When Illinois legalized marijuana, the governor touted the law as the most socially equitable in the nation. But while legal battles over licensing applications held social equity applicants in limbo, other companies gobbled up the market share.

  • According to Grown-In, Illinois has 110 dispensaries totaling $160 million in monthly sales.

State of play: Illinois finally issued its first social equity adult-use marijuana license last week after a drawn out legal process kept applicants from starting their businesses.

What they're saying: "We can't rewrite history, but we can make the future more equitable and just by having families like mine have an ownership stake in the growing cannabis industry," Nigel Dandridge, co-founder of Ivy Hall, said in a press release.

Yes, but: Ivy Hall has one of 200 statewide social equity dispensary licenses, 199 of which have been issued through lotteries in the past two years.

Zoom in: In response to complaints over the delay's impact, Gov. Pritzker announced this month that the state will provide almost $9 million in forgivable loans to social equity license holders.

Zoom out: Cannabis industry advocates have warned that the entire program is on the verge of collapse, citing regulatory issues and the arduous legal process.

  • They are pushing Springfield for help in getting to market quickly.
  • State Rep. Marcus Evans wants to create a cannabis commission modeled after those in California and Washington.
  • "Sometimes in government, we can make things easy, just by making them easy. You know, it's not complicated," Evans told WBEZ.

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