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COVID-19 Pandemic Delays Awarding Of 75 New Marijuana Dispensary Licenses In Illinois

CHICAGO (CBS) -- With Illinois still apparently not yet at the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak, new businesses hoping to get in on the next round of the legal marijuana industry will have to wait a bit longer to find out if they can get state licenses.

Existing medical marijuana outfits got the first crack at recreational pot licenses in January when weed went legal in Illinois. Other interested businesses were allowed to apply for one of 75 licenses that were set to go out next month.

Applications for those 75 licenses were due Jan. 1, and the state was supposed to announce the winners of those licenses on May 1, but Gov. JB Pritzker has signed an executive order to delay the awarding of those licenses until after the end of the coronavirus disaster proclamation, or until the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announces a new date.

"The Pritzker administration remains committed to creating a legal cannabis industry that reflects the diversity of Illinois residents. We recognize that countless entrepreneurs were looking forward to May 1 and the next step it represented for Illinois' adult use cannabis industry," said Pritzker's senior marijuana adviser on cannabis control, Toi Hutchinson. "However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays in the application review process. This executive order will help ensure that we continue to build out this industry in a deliberate and equity-centric manner."

More than 700 applications  have been submitted for the 75 licenses, many of them seeking to be qualified as so-called "social equity" applicants who would qualify for lower fees and for business loans to help get their businesses off the ground. To qualify as a social equity applicant, a the majority owner must either have spent 5 of the last 10 years living in an area disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, or have a prior arrest or conviction for a drug-related crime that is eligible for engagement. An applicant also can qualify for the social equity designation if at least 10 of their full-time employees and at least 51% of their full-time staff meets one of those two requirements.


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