‘Extremely frustrating’: On 4/20, many minority marijuana businesses have yet to open


CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois is smashing recreational marijuana sales again, with more than $130 million in sales last month.

That’s one of the highest monthly sales numbers, since pot was legalized here. But as the state continues to rake in millions in taxes and fees, not one minority-owned pot business has opened up shop yet – stuck in all kinds of red tape.

CBS 2’s Tara Molina reports from outside a dispensary in River North. Those that won state licenses to break into the industry are still stuck in a holding pattern more than two years into legalization.

Illinois has puff-puff past $2 billion in cannabis sales since legalizing pot in January 2020. With $131 million in sales just last month, the state has raked in hundreds of millions in taxes and fees over the years.

But here we are, another legal 4/20…

“4/20 is the biggest day in cannabis.”

And not one new company is growing, moving it or selling what the day is all about.

“For us not to be open on this 4/20 is extremely frustrating.”

Frank Cowan won one of the 185 state dispensary licenses and his situation is still tied up in court. After state delays and lawsuits over how the state handled licensing.

“There’s no minority representation,” Cowan said.

Unfortunately, not much has changed since we sat down with him more than a month ago. He, and every other license winner, meant to diversify the industry, is stuck waiting.

“Last year, cannabis generated $1.37 billion dollars in revenue and people of color have no piece of that pie,” Cowan said.

But with no new operators, those in limbo said they’re not the only ones losing here. The state of Illinois is missing out on even more money, jobs and investors.

“It’s hard to find capitol because they’re going to states like New Jersey and New York,” said Edie Moore, Legislative Co-chair and board member of Chicago NORML.

Despite what the state called the most progressive and equity-focused legalization plan in the country, years ago.

“The only people who have a license for a dispensary right now are white males. We are stagnant. Stuck in the Stone Age right now with marijuana,” Cowan said.

The legislative session wrapped in Springfield without movement on a number of cannabis-related bills, now forced to wait another year. 

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation issued this statement:

At this time, IDFPR cannot issue the 185 conditional adult use cannabis dispensary licenses to recipients selected in the 2021 lotteries due to a court order. The Department remains committed to issuing these licenses as soon as permitted by the courts.

Click here for more stories on CBS 2’s coverage of state licenses for recreational marijuana and who’s been left out of the booming business.

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