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After Losing $50,000, Social Equity Applicants Waiting For Marijuana License Say State Has Failed Them

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It has been more than a year since Illinois legalized and not one new operator has been given the green light to open up shop. Meantime, applicants are still paying bills and renting spaces they can't yet open.

Pot brought in more than $100 million in taxes and fees for Illinois last year, and the medical marijuana companies that got the first go at recreational weed got richer. But people like Nakisha Hobbs and her partners say they lost thousands. CBS 2 has stayed in touch with her through it all.

"There has to be a sense of urgency in getting this process wrapped up," she said in July of 2020.

She said she was "trying to scrape together just to hold onto the property" in September of 2020.

And now she says they had to let their property in Schaumburg go. They paid to hold it through nine months of delays. They even had zoning approval there as state law requires. 

Now, with $50,000 lost to this, they will have to go through it all again.

"We are still being disproportionately impacted," she said.

Hobbs and two other women of color from parts of Chicago negatively affected by the war on drugs founded CanniFem.

"Up to this point? The state has failed social equity applicants," she said.

The women embody the plan the state talked about when it legalized pot with an emphasis on inclusion social equity to diversify the pot industry.

Total marijuana sales in Illinois topped one billion last year.

"And the same companies got richer," Hobbs said.

Nine months have passed since CanniFem thought they'd have an answer on their craft grow application, and they're still stuck waiting.

"We don't have tons of money sitting around," she said. "We can't afford to lose $50,000 just because there's a delay in decision making."

CBS 2's Tara Molina followed up with all of the state offices involved in recreational pot.

Gov. JB Pritzker's office released the following statement.

Ensuring the state's cannabis industry is equitable and available to all Illinoisans, regardless of background, is the administration's top priority. The Department of Agriculture is in the process of preparing deficiency notices for applicants. Deficiency notices are notices to applicants for craft grow, infuser, and transporter licenses informing them that their applications are missing information, and it provides the applicants 10 days to provide the missing information in response.
The goal of the Governor and the administration is to ensure that the application process is fair and equitable. The Department of Agriculture will continue to provide public updates regarding the issuance of craft grow, infuser, and transportation licenses."

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