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Illinois' cannabis licensing lottery ‘complete failure’ says minority access committee co-chair

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Saturday, January 23, 2021  |  Article  |  By Elyse Kelly | The Center Square

Governor (44) , Minorities (66) , Recreational Marijuana Harper, Sonya--State House, 6

(The Center Square) – Some lawmakers in Illinois are being critical of the governor’s attempt to distribute cannabis dispensary licenses, calling it inequitable.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s license distribution plan involves a scoring system and lottery that some believe shuts out minorities.

State Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago, calls out the system, saying it put minorities at a disadvantage and needs to be rethought, as reported by NPR.

Portia Mittons, co-chair of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois’ Minority Access Committee said she doesn’t blame lawmakers, as she believed they tried to make an equitable law. Mittons said despite this, the results proved otherwise and the scoring process was particularly problematic.

“It was a complete failure,” Mittons said. “They chose a company that did not do a good job.”

Some applicants received points for which they did not qualify while others, like some social equity applicants, were not given the points they deserved under the law, Mittons said. In the end, no one new got a license last year.

“So you know the state is the one that’s responsible, the state is the one that said we’re going to hand out these licenses, so the state needs to figure out how to fix the thing,” Mittons said. “If it was the scoring and it was the scoring company, fix that, because the applicants, us, the social equity people, the people who put their money and time and effort into it, you know, they were the ones that were screwed.”

Mittons said the scoring was just one of the ways minorities were shut out.

“The reason minorities were shut out is the application itself,” Mittons said. “It was extremely, extremely hard and there were costs that were not expected.”

Some of the hidden costs involved paying for hypothetical floor plans and security plans, while for others, the application proved so complex they needed to hire a writer with in-depth knowledge of the cannabis industry, Mittons said. These issues gave large, multi-state operators the upper hand.

Mittons describes what equity would look like going forward.

“Cannabis equity would look like the stores and the people in the community who are in the cannabis industry to reflect that community," Mittons said.