New marijuana dispensaries are coming to Illinois. Here’s the latest on when and where they might open

An FAQ on a new bill that will nearly triple the number of pot shops in Illinois.

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Dispensary 33 opened recently at 1152 W. Randolph St.

Brian Ernst/Sun-Times,

Here’s the latest on a new law that paves the way for nearly 200 new pot shops to open in Illinois:

What happened?

The General Assembly approved legislation last week aimed at resolving an impasse over how to diversify the state’s weed industry that currently has no pot shops run by owners of color.

How many new dispensaries are expected to open in Illinois?

Once Gov. J.B. Pritzker makes good on his promise to sign the bill into law, the state will unleash a flood of licenses giving operators the right to open 195 new weed stores.

Where will the new dispensaries be?

About 119 are expected to open in a region that covers Chicago and the suburbs.

Who can win the new pot shop licenses?

Most of them will go to some of the 700 social equity applicants who applied in January 2020 for a batch of 75 pot shop permits. The awarding of those licenses has been delayed for more than a year after a controversy prompted a series of lawsuits and led to the new legislation. And handful of licenses will be open to new applicants

What’s a social equity applicant?

The designation created to diversify the cannabis industry initially gave a leg-up to applicants who either live in an area that’s been adversely impacted by the drug war or have a cannabis-related criminal record or a family member who does. Groups initially were also able to qualify by hiring a workforce that mostly includes those individuals.

How will the next dispensary licenses be handed out?

There will be four lotteries to determine who gets the right to open the stores

How soon could the new dispensary licenses be issued?

Possibly with 30 days. That’s the timeline Rickey Hendon, a former state senator who helped write the new bill, has urged. Toi Hutchinson, Pritzker’s chief cannabis adviser, said that goal is “close” to obtainable and confirmed that a revised scoring process is roughly 95% complete: “This is going to be a very busy summer.”

How soon could new pot shops start opening in Illinois?

Ideally this fall, says Hendon, who is spokesman for social equity candidates. But in the timeline will also depend on how quickly those who win the lotteries can get zoning approval from cities and towns where they want to locate.

What could complicate the process?

Lawsuits that were filed in connection to the initial delayed licensing round are still pending and more could potentially be brought based on the new legislation.

How does this impact Illinois’ retail pot market?

Substantially. The market is currently larger than it’s ever been, with 110 dispensaries now licensed to sell both recreational and medical marijuana. Many are operated by multi-billion companies that operate in multiple states.

How much could this boost marijuana sales?

Total cannabis sales surpassed $1 billion last year, the first year of legal recreational weed in Illinois, and this year’s totals are on pace to top that. Dispensaries have sold more than $510 million in recreational weed through May. Nearly tripling the number of stores will almost certainly lead to a big boost in sales.

What other licenses need to be handed out?

Regulators have also held up 40 craft cultivation permits, 40 infusion permits and an unlimited number of licenses to transport cannabis products. A Pritzker spokeswoman said a supplementary scoring process is “expected to conclude in the coming weeks.”

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