Illinois lawmakers are helping residents of disproportionately impacted areas benefit from cannabis reform

Cannabis social equity applications in Illinois will officially open on December 10

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has informed Illinois residents of the requirements for social equity program eligibility. Individuals will be considered as social equity applicants if they are deemed to come from ‘disproportionately impacted areas’.

Eligible applicants will come from a place with a high level of cannabis-related arrests, convictions and incarcerations. Unemployment rates and poverty will also be taken into account.

The goal of the DCEO’s social equity program is to provide the residents of communities worst-impacted by the “war on drugs” with the right to be involved in Illinois’ burgeoning industry.

“As Illinois continues its path toward putting equity at the forefront of the state’s new adult-use cannabis expansion, it’s important to create opportunities in communities that have been hardest hit by the war on [cannabis],” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Not only will social equity applicants receive points on their applications, but many applicants will also get grants, technical assistance, low-interest loans and fee reductions and waivers. Taken together, these efforts will do more than any other state in the nation has done to focus on equity.”

DCEO to provide cannabis social equity applicants in Illinois with low-interest loans

Another task on the agenda for the DCEO in 2019 is the establishment of a low-interest loan program. The program will be made available to qualifying social equity applicants, with the sole purpose of assisting them financially with the costs of launching and running a business in the legal cannabis industry.

There will be an option for cannabis business license applicants to confirm whether or not they are already enrolled in Illinois’ social equity program when they apply for licensing. Furthermore, the DCEO has announced that the organization will provide social equity applicants with support and technical assistance, such as help with preparing a business plan for license approval.

Criteria to qualify as a cannabis social equity applicant in Illinois

Not just anybody can qualify as a social equity applicant in Illinois; a number of criteria must be met to confirm an individual’s eligibility. At least one of the following criteria must be met in order to be considered as a disproportionately impacted individual in Illinois:

  • A minimum of 51 percent business ownership by at least one individual who has resided in a disproportionately impacted area for 5-10 years. (Can also be a family member of an individual applying.)
  • A minimum of 51 percent of the required 10 full-time employees must reside in disproportionately impacted areas/have been affected after committing a cannabis-related offense.
  • Applicant has been arrested for or received a conviction for a cannabis offense that is eligible for expungements.

Illinois’ social equity application was made available for disproportionately impacted individuals on October 1; published on the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s website. Applications will officially open on December 10.

License applications will be halted at 12:00 pm on January 20, 2020, with an additional 75 licenses to be issued by May 1, 2020.

You can view the map of disproportionately impacted areas in Illinois by clicking here.