Coronavirus has left 75 cannabis dispensary license applicants in Illinois feeling impatient

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

As if the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t already caused enough problems for the cannabis industry – not to mention various other industries – but now, it has put the awarding of dispensary licenses in Illinois on the backburner. Currently, hopeful licensees are waiting for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to distribute licenses among 75 lucky recreational cannabis retail store owners.

According to the Department, the process of awarding licenses must be delayed until Governor J.B. Pritzker’s disaster order comes to an end. Prior to the Department’s April 29 announcement that cannabis dispensary licenses in Illinois would not be selected just yet, the application deadline was set at January 1 and the awarding deadline set at May 1.

The new date on which applicants can expect to find out who bags the available cannabis dispensary licenses in Illinois will be dependent on the state or Gov. Pritzker’s ruling. What is for certain, however, is that it won’t be before May 30. Gov. Pritzker issued a Third Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation on April 30; effective immediately for 30 days.

Majority of hopeful cannabis business licensees in Illinois are social equity applicants

Over 700 people submitted an application for the 75 available cannabis business licenses in Illinois. Once snapped up, the licenses will enable eager business owners to smoothly transition into the state’s fresh legal cannabis industry. Despite the fact that recreational sales officially began on January 1, just a handful of operators were allowed to commence with business once the law was effectuated.

It goes without saying that the operators who already served the medical market once recreational sales started have gained a competitive edge over soon-to-be industry participants. A delay in awarding cannabis business licenses in Illinois means that existing retail store owners will continue to dominate the market.

The majority of people who applied for dispensary licenses in Illinois are social equity applicants. In order to qualify as a social equity applicant, the individual must either live in an area that was worst-impacted by the war on drugs or have a cannabis-related felony on their criminal record. Colossal amounts of revenue are out-of-reach for licensees who are awaiting confirmation that they’re “in”, so to speak; approximately $110.2 million was spent on legal cannabis in Illinois during the first three months of sales.

At the current time, it remains uncertain as to when new dispensaries will be able to usher customers into their retail facilities. First and foremost, licenses will be distributed among successful applicants. Once this step is complete, the recipient must find a suitable location within 180 days. A location inspection will follow, before the licensee is given the go-ahead to launch for business.

Cannabis dispensaries in Illinois are operating differently amid the coronavirus

Even without the eagerly-anticipated rollout of new cannabis stores in Illinois, the state already serves consumers with approximately 50 actively-operating dispensaries. However, COVID-19 has influenced how they function, with many stopping operations until the pandemic fizzles out.

Online cannabis orders have seen a significant boost amid the coronavirus scare, what with social distancing measures making it difficult for retailers and budtenders to meet with customers face-to-face. The process of delivering dispensary products via online cannabis ordering systems in Illinois involves drivers meeting up with patients in their cars.

Aside from the delay in processing applications for cannabis business licenses in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Agriculture is also preparing to distribute 40 infuser licenses and 40 craft grower licenses by July; so long as the COVID-19 pandemic has calmed down by then.