Earlier last week, regulators in the state of Illinois released a report highlighting a lack of diversity among business owners in its recreational cannabis market. The report, the 2022 Annual Cannabis Report, also outlined a plan that would rectify this issue in the coming fiscal year, as the adult-use industry in the state is set to expand with 190 new social-equity businesses launching. The report also discussed the next steps for cannabis business licensing, noting that regulators would help level the playing field.
The state’s Department of Financial and Professional Regulations stressed that Illinois had faced criticism from advocates over the roll-out of its adult-use market, especially over the negligible gender and racial representation among corporate executives and business owners. At the moment, there are no active marijuana licenses with majority ownership by individuals of color, social-equity applicants or individuals with disabilities. There is only a single licensee with majority women ownership.
The report states that White people are disproportionately represented in every category in the state’s market. They account for 90% in the board of directors’ category, 88% in the majority owners category, 80% in C-suite executives and more than 70% in the minority owners categories. Latino and Black individuals make up less than 10% for majority of the top positions.
This deficit in diversity has been greatly criticized by activists, who argue that the state of Illinois hasn’t succeeded in fulfilling its equitable legalization promise.
Soon after this report was released, a group of advocates held a press conference to underscore this issue and demand that something be done to resolve the problem. Representatives from organizations such as the Social Equity Empowerment Network, the Illinois Independent Craft Growers Association, the Cannabis Equity Illinois Coalition and Chicago NORML, among others, as well as Rep. LaShawn Ford, offered an update on discussions with the office of Gov. Jay Robert Pritzker about the issue, which talked about 2023’s licensing developments and legislative agenda.
In a press release, Ford stated that he looked forward to working with his colleagues in the governor’s office and legislature to find solutions for Illinois’ marijuana program.
In addition to plans to expand the state’s cannabis industry, the report also included the latest sales data from the market. It shows that as of August 2022, Illinois’ marijuana market had raked in more than $1.5 billion in sales. It is expected that as more businesses in the state launch, sales will significantly increase just as was the case in jurisdictions such as California where entities such as American Cannabis Partners currently operate.
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