The Chicago Journal

Cannabis Industry Gets Positive Numbers in Illinois, 149 New Licenses to Add to the Momentum

On Friday, Illinois regulators issued 149 cannabis dispensary licenses that vowed to increase the number of marijuana stores in the state.

This growth and momentum of the cannabis industry in the state indicate expansion and more opportunities for many reputable suppliers and dispensaries like nuEra Chicago and others. With the state offering a regulated and legalized framework for both medical and recreational cannabis, many businesses can flourish.

The decision ends a nearly a year delay for entrepreneurs looking to delve into the cannabis industry, giving them the green light to prepare for their storefronts.

At the same time, many consumers, especially those with medical conditions, can access the product to help with the symptoms of their ailments. 

The decision to regulate waiver permits was the first decision of Prime Minister JB Pritzker’s government.


Marijuana was previously legalized with its signature in 2019. The legalization marked a significant turning point in the industry; Illinois was the 11th state to do this. Before this, it was already legal to sell medical marijuana in 2013.  A year later, sales began. The problematic introduction of licensing in Illinois then hit a stumbling block.

A steady stream of lawsuits and criticism that the diversity promotion system paved the way for established marijuana giants with 110 operating dispensaries.

The first companies to open stores were all previously state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.

License Delays

Many factors cause delays in the release of licenses, such as regulatory requirements, application backlogs, and legal considerations. In Chicago, businesses encountered a series of problems at that time, including stringent zoning laws that made finding suitable locations difficult and a complex application process that required extensive documentation and high application fees.  

The 149 new Social Justice licensees are among 185 applicants who won a series of gated lotteries for the coveted license last summer.

However, two candidates sued the state’s filing system, prompting a Cook County judge to order state officials to suspend license distribution.

The judge canceled the arrest warrant in May.

The Licensees

On Friday, Pritzker’s office called “first-wave” licensees officially licensed to sell weed.

More than 41% of new graduates are predominantly black, 7% white and 4% Latino.

According to official figures, 38% did not share the race of their owners.

Pritzker’s Statement

“Illinois is leading the way in addressing the War on Drugs as no state has before, and dispensary ownership that reflects our state’s diversity is a product of that commitment,” Pritzker said.

“These licenses represent a significant step toward accountability for the decades of injustice preceding cannabis legalization.”

“Illinois will continue to deliver on the promises of putting equity at the forefront of this process,” he added.

Opportunities For Minorities

The cannabis industry understands the importance of promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity. It’s even more pronounced for those disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. Some of the opportunities given to them are social equity programs, capital assistance, education and training, and community reinvestment.

Although the new licenses allow people of color to enter retail, existing industry players and political insiders have also scored points, including GRI Holdings.

GRI Holdings is a powerful company with ties to the state government, which includes restaurateur Phil Stefani and Jeffrey Rehnerger, CEO of video game company Lucky Lincoln Gaming.

Baked Too, a minority startup, also received the government seal of approval.

The company was cleared after filing a lawsuit in Cook County court claiming that the state had “forced” it to unfairly give up a lottery seat

 Along with other new licensees, So Baked partner Britteney Kapri has 180 days to get a company’s approval before they receive a full license for the group to start stockpiling weed.

Kapri said he was still “shocked” to finally get the approval after all these years.

“We are still at the very beginning of a long long process,” said Kapri.

“I feel good, really, really good – and scared but hopeful.”

Industry Sales

Meanwhile, cannabis sales in Illinois have skyrocketed, with the state receiving nearly $450 million in tax revenue from $1.5 billion in recreational marijuana sales.

According to Governor JB Pritzker, the amount of taxes collected has increased from $297.7 million in fiscal year 2021 to $445.3 million this year, an increase of 50%.

Overall, recreational cannabis sales also increased by 50%, from $1 billion to $1.5 billion.

“Illinois has done more to put justice and equity at the forefront of this industry than any other state in the nation and has worked to ensure that communities hurt by the war on drugs have had the opportunity to participate,” said Pritzker.

“The $1.5 billion in sales of adult-use cannabis in Illinois translates into significant tax revenue with a portion of every dollar spent being reinvested in communities that have suffered for decades.”

The rising demand for cannabis products and the continuing education of the masses regarding its health benefits made sales robust and unprecedented. The mentioned sales figures may drastically change over time due to various factors. Foremost are the state of market saturation, perceived regulatory changes, and the booming competition among suppliers and dispensaries.