Chicago Sun-Times

AN­OTHER POT POST­PONE­MENT

More li­censes de­layed in­def­i­nitely due to COVID-19

- BY TOM SCHUBA, STAFF RE­PORTER tschuba@sun­times.com | @TomSchuba Business · Infectious Diseases · Agriculture · Health Conditions · Industries · Illinois · United States of America · United States Marine Corps · National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws · J.B. Pritzker · Jerry Costello · Jerry Costello II · Englewood, Colorado · Broadview, IL

Blam­ing the on­go­ing coro­n­avirus pan­demic, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Mon­day is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der de­lay­ing li­censes to grow, trans­port and in­fuse cannabis prod­ucts.

The Illi­nois De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture, which reg­u­lates cannabis cul­ti­va­tion fa­cil­i­ties, will an­nounce when the li­censes will be is­sued, ac­cord­ing to Pritzker’s or­der.

The li­censes, which were ex­pected to be awarded Wed­nes­day, in­clude 40 for both craft grow­ers and in­fusers and an un­de­ter­mined number for trans­porters.

The pub­lic health crisis twice prompted Pritzker to push the dead­line for sub­mit­ting ap­pli­ca­tions for the li­censes from the orig­i­nal due date of March 16 to April 30. Pritzker signed a sim­i­lar or­der in late April that in­def­i­nitely de­layed the is­suance of 75 new pot shop li­censes, though of­fi­cials since have sig­naled those li­censes will be awarded in­ter­mit­tently in the com­ing months.

“The COVID-19 pan­demic and the six-week dead­line ex­ten­sion granted to ap­pli­cants have caused un­fore­see­able de­lays in the ap­pli­ca­tion re­view process,” said Jerry Costello II, act­ing di­rec­tor of the state’s agri­cul­ture de­part­ment. “The de­part­ment is work­ing tire­lessly to en­sure that ap­pli­ca­tions are scored and awarded in a fair, de­lib­er­ate and eq­ui­table man­ner.”

The de­layed li­censes are the first pri­or­i­tized for so-called so­cial eq­uity in an ef­fort to bol­ster mi­nor­ity par­tic­i­pa­tion in the state’s over­whelm­ingly white pot in­dus­try.

Un­like ap­pli­cants for dis­pen­sary li­censes, those seek­ing smallscale cul­ti­va­tion li­censes had to lock down prop­erty to ap­ply. That puts an ad­di­tional fi­nan­cial strain on would-be busi­ness own­ers at­tempt­ing to break into a highly com­pet­i­tive in­dus­try with oner­ous reg­u­la­tions.

Vin­cent Nor­ment, an En­gle­wood na­tive who served in the U.S. Marines and has ap­plied for mul­ti­ple li­censes, is among the so­cial eq­uity can­di­dates who will have to plunk down more money to lease prop­erty as they await the state’s de­ci­sion.

Nor­ment said he and his part­ners al­ready shelled out more than $20,000 for a down pay­ment on a pro­posed craft cul­ti­va­tion cen­ter in Broad­view. Now, the group will have to con­tinue mak­ing monthly rent pay­ments with no as­sur­ance it will get one of the cov­eted li­censes.

De­spite the added fi­nan­cial strain, Nor­ment said his team is “in this for the long haul.”

“We didn’t get into it to let this de­ter us from get­ting across the fin­ish line,” he said. “It just might take more money, but that’s the price of going into busi­ness in this in­dus­try and also do­ing busi­ness in Illi­nois.”

Edie Moore, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Chicago chap­ter of the Na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for the Re­form of Mar­i­juana Laws, noted li­cens­ing de­lays also marred the roll­out of Illi­nois’ med­i­cal pot pro­gram and others across the coun­try.

“There were de­lays all out the wa­zoo in 2015, just no­body was pay­ing attention to them,” said Moore, a so­cial eq­uity ap­pli­cant who hopes to open a craft growth fa­cil­ity on the South­east Side.

 ?? ASH­LEE REZIN GAR­CIA/SUN-TIMES ?? Vin­cent Nor­ment says he and his part­ners have al­ready shelled out more than $20,000 for a down pay­ment on a pro­posed craft cul­ti­va­tion cen­ter in Broad­view.
ASH­LEE REZIN GAR­CIA/SUN-TIMES Vin­cent Nor­ment says he and his part­ners have al­ready shelled out more than $20,000 for a down pay­ment on a pro­posed craft cul­ti­va­tion cen­ter in Broad­view.

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