Illinois licenses first social equity adult-use marijuana retailers

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Illinois regulators issued the state’s first social equity adult-use marijuana retail license to an ownership group comprised of “wealthy and connected” Chicago entrepreneurs, including a former police officer.

Green Rose Dispensary is expected to open as early as next week in a prominent location in the city’s River North area, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The state also issued a permit to a second equity dispensary, Ivy Hall, in the city’s Wicker Park area, but no opening date has been announced.

Illinois was the first state to authorize equity licenses – business permits reserved for individuals who meet certain qualifications, such as a past marijuana-related arrest or residency in an area affected by the war on drugs – at the same time it legalized adult-use marijuana.

But lawsuits and other delays kept retailers in the social equity program from opening almost three years after retail sales began Jan. 1, 2020.

Green Rose – which is 15% Latino-owned and 2.5% Black-owned, according to the state – qualified for an equity permit by hiring employees who had minor marijuana-related convictions or live in areas with high rates of MJ arrests or poverty, according to the Tribune.

Its owners include Thomas Wheeler Jr., a former Chicago police detective and narcotics-unit veteran.

Critics have said allowing businesses to qualify for the social equity program by hiring qualified employees, rather than qualified ownership, allows well-heeled businesses to benefit from Illinois’s equity program.

And Gov. JB Pritzker, who this week unveiled a social equity loan program– has admitted that the state’s marijuana industry is predominately white-owned.