Discrimination In Cannabis Industry? Despite Social Equity Goals, Struggles Persist, Illinois' Disparity Study

The Cannabis Regulation Oversight Office in Illinois announced the cannabis industry Disparity and Availability Study that will examine whether discrimination exists in the marijuana space and review accessibility issues.

The study will also include advice for reducing or removing obstacles to entry into the industry and will make recommendations on how to resolve them once discovered.

Who's In Charge? 

Under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (“CRTA”), the Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer (CROO) is in charge of ordering and publishing the $2.5 million Disparity Study for adult use licenses. CROO commissioned a 100% minority and women-owned data analytics company, The Nerevy Group, which has contractors and subcontractors in Springfield, Peoria, Decatur and Chicago, to run the study. 

“This effort is a vital assessment of the State’s cannabis social equity licensing system,” said acting Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer Erin Johnson, reported WCIA. “We look forward to seeing a final report that truly incorporates the voices of Illinois social equity applicants and our new cannabis businesses.”

The study findings and recommendations in the final report will be presented to the Governor and General Assembly in 12 months. It will also be available online.

“We’re looking at every single license type we regulate in Illinois,” Johnson said.“I think this disparity study will hopefully give us some insight to know how we’re doing,” Johnson said, “and what further steps we can take, if any, to truly make sure our industry in Illinois is the best and is the model for the nation.”

Previous Social Equity Struggles 

Illinois legalized adult-use cannabis sales in 2020 under the law, which contained provisions to help veterans and people negatively affected by the war on drugs get into the industry. However, the issuance of those “social equity” licenses was not going as smoothly as it should have. 

In July, the state issued 185 total adult-use cannabis dispensary licenses to social equity applicants, including three additional Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization Licenses that were handed out by Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) to applicants who were selected in lotteries held in the summer of 2021.

Out of those 185 licenses, only a few have received final approval to open. “As of Feb. 3, seven of 192 applicants with conditional licenses went on to get their full license and have opened dispensaries. An eighth business was set to open Thursday,”  writes the Chicago Sun-Times

“Everyone in Illinois was disappointed the initial program caused a huge disparity in ownership between the people it was intended to help and those it helped to become millionaires,” said state Rep. La Shawn Ford.

“This study is essential in identifying potential disparities and suitable remedies,” Nerevu founder Reuben Cummings stated “We are excited to initiate this project and look forward to connecting with the greater cannabis community.”

Photo: Elsa Olofsson via Unsplash

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Posted In: CannabisNewsMarketscannabis discriminationChicago Sun-TimesCROOCRTADisparity Study cannabisIllinois cannabisJB PritzkerLa Shawn Fordsocial equity cannabisWCIA
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