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Does Illinois' Cannabis Law Do Enough To Create Equity?

Jeff Smudde / WGLT

More than half of Peoria falls under a program meant to help communities most impacted by the War on Drugs have a fair shot at participating in Illinois’ legal cannabis market. 

Qualified applicants from the “disproportionately impacted areas” only pay half of the $5,000 application fee to sell recreational marijuana.

State Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) admits that $2,500 can still be a prohibitive cost. But she says there’s no way to let people start a business that lucrative for free - and there are other benefits under the equity program. 

“They do not have to have their real estate in advance of the license. That’s huge, because when we did medical cannabis, if you wanted to apply for a license, you had to have your real estate in advance of licensure. You really had to bet on the hope that maybe you would be licensed, so that maybe you wouldn’t be out of that money," she said."

Gordon-Booth said if approved, applicants could have half of their start-up costs covered by the state’s Cannabis Equity Fund.

She adds the cannabis workforce is expected to grow up to 35,000 jobs over the next few years, creating good-paying work outside of dispensary ownership.