Should I Apply for an Illinois Dispensary License?

Illinois Released Adult-Use Dispensary Applications on October 1, 2019

ICYMI: Illinois passed a law allowing the sale of marijuana products to adults over the age of 21 starting January 1, 2020. The state plans to first award up to 75 dispensary licenses. Dispensary applications drop on October 1, 2019, and they are due to the state by January 1, 2020. Winners can expect to be notified by May 1, 2020 if all goes as planned (spoiler: it rarely does). 

Illinois’ legalization brings the number of adult-use states up to 11–Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington–plus the District of Columbia. Illinois presents a potentially lucrative market, as it is the second most populous of the current recreational states with over 12 million residents. For context, Colorado has half that population and California is over 3 times the size. 

Illinois is the first state to legalize adult-use cannabis by legislation, instead of through citizen-led initiative. The statute tasks the Department with drafting an application and regulations. Illinois has copious examples of what to do and not to do in a budding recreational market so regulators aren’t tasked with reinventing the wheel in rolling out the program.

Keep in mind that the competitive application process is multi-faceted, and winners rarely ever receive perfect scores. While deciding whether to compete for a dispensary license relies on countless variables, there are certain factors that set you above the competition. It is unlikely that any one individual would check ALL of these boxes, so your ability to leverage a team with varying strengths is crucial to success. 

Do you already have a medical marijuana license in Illinois?

Get out of here! The state is already awarding additional licenses to current operators–go apply! Adult-use licensees must wait until January 1, 2020 to start selling recreationally…and may have to negotiate with their local government for adult-use approval between now and then.

Do you qualify for Social Equity Status? 

Illinois legislators understand the deleterious role the War on Drugs has played in oppressing minority groups, which is why a whopping 20% of the possible application points are based on Social Equity Status. To qualify, 51% of owners must live or have lived in a Disproportionately Impacted Area (to be released by the Department of Economic), 51% of ownership must have an expungeable offense, or a majority of the applicant’s at least 10 employees must satisfy the Disproportionately Impacted Area or expungeable offense qualifications. If you can meet one of these requirements, you’re already in a competitive position.

Can you get financing? 

You may have heard that the marijuana industry is in a bit of a pickle, financially. Not so much with turning a profit, but with banking and financing options. Funding a new operation is pricier than you might think. If you don’t have financial backing, your application and operations will be grounded before they take off. Keep in mind that Social Equity Applicants can receive low-interest loans and grants in addition to scoring application points!

Do you have cannabis or related-industry industry experience? 

The state wants to know your team is capable and knowledgeable. If the state awards you this license, they want to know your team can back up all the promises of grandeur you made in the application. It’s not imperative to have everyone signed up yet, but it’s time to start putting your intentions out there using word of mouth, job postings, and search agencies.

Can you feel it? 

Passion, dedication, and raw excitement can get you far in the cannabis application process. Compiling a stellar application is a daunting task and not something to be taken on at half speed. The right balance of gumption and organization can lead to greatness. 

When it comes to cannabis licensing, there are no promised wins and little certainty in the process, but if you think ahead and strategize, you can greatly increase your likelihood of coming out with a Win.

Contact us today for help with an Illinois adult-use dispensary licensing application.

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