“I’m being told the administration would like to see all the licenses issued by end of summer,” Sen. Don DeWitte, R-West Dundee, said during a Zoom call hosted by the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois, a trade group for the weed industry. “I think that’s a very bold projection. If we could start the process by end of summer, I’d be happy. To have this thing cleaned up by end of the year, I think that would be a realistic target.”
The first licenses were supposed to be issued in May 2020, but the process was delayed and ultimately ran into complaints and litigation over how applications were scored and whether it was falling short of social-equity goals aimed at diversifying the ownership of the industry. The Legislature tried several times to amend the law, but it didn’t pass until the spring session.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has indicated he’ll sign the bill. But it has not yet been sent to to him, says Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, one of bill’s primary sponsors of the bill. “The Governor’s office is doing everything they can to make sure the rollout happens right this time.”
Weed shops can be very lucrative, with successful locations doing $10 million a year in business, and selling for $20 million or more. The state received more than 900 applications for licenses.
But just 21 applicants received perfect scores, qualifying for a lottery to issue 75 licenses, setting off an outcry that resulted in the new legislation. Under the new law, the state will award 185 recreational dispensary licenses. It also will eventually award another five dispensary licenses that were not issued under the initial medical-marijuana law.