The Illinois Cannabis Regulation Oversight Office (CROO) announced on Feb. 7 that it launched its Cannabis Disparity and Availability Study, which tasks a contract group to find examples of discrimination within the local cannabis industry.
According to CROO, the study “will collect and analyze data and report on whether discrimination exists in the Illinois cannabis industry,” CROO states on its website. “If there is a finding that discrimination exists, the Disparity Study will evaluate the impact of the discrimination on the State and its residents regarding entering and participating in the State’s cannabis industry. The Disparity Study will include recommendations for reducing or eliminating any identified barriers to entry.“
The study will examine laws and court cases that involve cannabis and cannabis and disparity studies, conduct interviews and create focus groups for public input, and compile data in relation to the state’s cannabis application process and business information.
A final report is required to be sent to the General Assembly and governor within 12 months, including any “potential remedies” to amend current cannabis regulation. “This effort is a vital assessment of the state’s cannabis social equity licensing system,” said Acting CROO Officer Erin Johnson. “We look forward to seeing a final report that truly incorporates the voices of Illinois social equity applicants and our new cannabis businesses.”
This comes nearly one year since the state issued a request to find someone to conduct the Disparity Study in Feb. 2022. This led to the hiring of the Nerevu Group, which is a minority- and women-owned contractor group based throughout Illinois, as well as some out-of-state locations.
“Along with our partners, Nerevu is honored to support CROO, IDFPR and IDOA in building an even more inclusive and equitable cannabis industry,” said Nerevu Group Founder and President Reuben Cummings. “This study is essential in identifying potential disparities and suitable remedies. We are excited to initiate this project and look forward to connecting with the greater cannabis community.”
Legal adult-use cannabis sales began in 2020, and in July 2022, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that 149 condition state licenses would be issued and available for social equity applicants. “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,” said Pritzker. “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.”
Just a few months later, two of the state’s first social equity cannabis dispensaries, Ivy Hall Damen and Green Rose Dispensary, opened in November 2022 in Chicago.
According to Nigel Dandridge, the co-founder of Ivy Hall Damen, it’s taken a long time for his business to open up. “We’ve been working to get a seat at the table for a while now, and we’re finally able to do that,” said Dandridge. “When this industry first opened up, we didn’t see anyone in our community benefiting, or even being able to participate. So it was kind of hypocritical. I think it’s important that we can show you what we’re doing. We want everyone to benefit. Our staff’s been working hard, and we’re just excited to share it with everyone.”
Falling in line with other states in the U.S., Illinois Rep. La Shawn Ford recently introduced House Bill 1 to legalize psychedelics in January. Ford’s bill would allow residents 18 years and older to seek out supervised psychedelic therapy. “I want to be clear that this is a health measure. My proposal does not allow retail sales of psilocybin outside of a regulated therapeutic setting and ensures that medicines purchased for therapeutic use at a service center must be used under medical supervision, and cannot be taken home,” Ford said. “Only licensed facilitators will be allowed to provide treatment at closely regulated and licensed healing centers, approved health care facilities, in hospice, or at a pre-approved patient residence.”