ANOTHER POT POSTPONEMENT
More licenses delayed indefinitely due to COVID-19
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.