The state of Illinois has announced that it will delay awarding 75 licenses for new marijuana dispensaries due to the coronavirus crisis. It joins the number of states who have had marijuana initiatives, from legalization to licensing, disrupted by the outbreak.
On Wednesday last week, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which regulates dispensaries, announced that it will not award the 75 licenses until Governor J.B. Pritzker’s disaster proclamations end or the state decides on another date.
The governor is expected to sign a new order extending the state’s disaster proclamation through May 30.
Although recreational marijuana sales started on Jan 1, only existing operators were allowed to participate. The state has about 50 dispensaries selling recreational marijuana, and the delay will grant them monopoly status over the state’s mammoth marijuana market. Customers in Illinois spent around $110.2 million on legal cannabis within the first three months of sales.
The 75 Conditional Adult-Use Cannabis Dispensing Organization Licenses were set to be awarded by May 1 but it is now unclear how long the applicants will have to wait. There were more than 700 applications for the 75 available licenses, and many of them were social equity applicants.
These are individuals who have a marijuana-related arrest on their record, live in an area that’s been disproportionately hit by the war on drugs, or meets another qualifier. According to Too Hutchinson, senior adviser to the governor on cannabis control, the Pritzker administration is committed to creating a marijuana 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’s adult-use cannabis industry. However, the ongoing COVID-19 situation has caused delays in this application review process. This executive order will help ensure that we continue to build out this industry in a deliberate and equity centric manner,” she said in a statement.
The applicants who eventually win licenses will be granted 180 days to source a location if they haven’t already. The location will have to be inspected by the state before any commerce can begin.
According to the Chicago Tribune, licenses offer the first path into Illinois’ burgeoning marijuana industry for people who didn’t already operate a cannabis facility. The state would get an influx of tax revenue from increased sales to help cushion it against the pandemic’s economic fallout as well as provide much-needed employment opportunities.
Analysts believe members of the cannabis industry, such as Champignon Brands Inc. (CSE: SHRM) (OTCQB: SHRMF) (FWB: 496), will be disappointed that their aspiring counterparts in Illinois will have to wait for an unknown duration before they can get a go-ahead to start dispensary operations.
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