First to Legalize
Illinois has just become the first state to legalize cannabis using legislation. Because of that they were able to acknowledge how much damage the “war on drugs” has done to certain areas around the state. These areas historically have high rates of cannabis related arrests and incarcerations. The state is working to expunge close to 800,000 marijuana convictions from criminal records. The cannabis regulation and tax act, permits the state to automatically grant clemency to residents that have been convicted for possessing up to 30 grams of cannabis. The bill attempts to help those negatively affected using their social equity program. This program will provide additional support for “Social Equity Applicants” in areas that have been “most adversely impacted by the enforcement of cannabis-related laws.” The program will reduce barriers of entry for qualifying applicants with pre-license assistance, reducing application fees, and offering loans and grants.
What are the Benefits?
Qualifying applicants will receive a handful of benefits, starting with an increased chance of approval for all license applications. Although the official number has not been released, illinois plans on granting pre-license assistance for qualifying applicants. This would greatly increase the chance of approval for all applicants and on top of that they will also be waving 50% of those application fees.
The state will also be starting a cannabis business development fund that will be used to provide financial resources such as low-interest loans and grants. The fund aims to kick off with a $20 million low-interest loan program. Overall, the goal of this program is to make things as easy as possible for qualifying applicants to not only get their business up and running but to ensure their business is successful.
Do I Qualify?
A “Social Equity Applicant” is a business whose ownership or staff have been directly impacted by enforcement of cannabis-related laws. This includes individuals that have been arrested/convicted of cannabis-related offenses, anyone with strong ties to a community that has been negatively impacted by cannabis drug law enforcement. All business applicants must be 51 percent or more owned by somebody who qualifies as a “Social Equity Individual.” For businesses with 10 or more staff, 51 percent of workers must qualify as “Social Equity Individuals.”
Illinois Social Equity Program will also be expunging certain cannabis-related convictions. House Sponsor Representative, Kelly Cassidy, told Cannabis Wire, “we’re going further with expungements than any other state has.” She explained that the state will be automatically expunging crimes including: low-level possession, intent to distribute, manufacturing, delivery and possession of plants ranging from low-level misdemeanors to class 4 felonies. However, this does not apply to violations that are accompanied by other non-qualifying charges.
It is still early in the process and many of the details are still being worked out. We will continue to monitor activity and update this page with any new information that comes out.