Columns | Northwest Herald

Eye On Illinois: Equity concerns increasing in state’s legal pot business

Is Illinois’ social equity approach to legalized recreational marijuana on the brink of collapse?

That’s the premise of a Sept. 12 Filter magazine article written after a demonstration outside the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation in which protestors accused Illinois of falling short of a goal to use the market to create meaningful ownership stakes among minority communities.

Though still very new, legal pot is big business in Illinois. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the state yielded $445 million in taxes on about $1.5 billion in sales. Local governments collected $83 million in taxes in fiscal 2021 and $146 million in fiscal 2022.

Scott T. Holland

Owned by the nonprofit Influence Foundation, New York-based Filter debuted in 2018 as an advocacy outlet pushing for “rational and compassionate approaches to drug use, drug policy and human rights.” The piece (tinyurl.com/FilterEquity) definitely echoes with that perspective, but it raises issues state leaders eventually must address.

Filter interviewed 1937 Group CEO Ambrose Jackson, holder of a conditional recreational marijuana license, who detailed the hurdles any business must clear to open a dispensary and estimates it takes $1.5 million just to welcome the first customer. A legal wall erected to prevent social equity licenses from becoming commodities sold to huge corporations also limits Jackson’s ability to raise capital, and he said a low-interest state loan program hasn’t made distributions.

These concerns definitely warrant attention, especially in an election year.

NEED A NEW GIG? Anyone looking for a professional change of pace or interested in public service may want to become familiar with Court Reporting Services, an administrative office under the direction of chief circuit judges. The agency recently started offering free “First Steps” classes at almost 40 sites throughout Illinois. The job requires specialized training – but not a college degree – passage of a licensing exam and continuing education. Learn more at ilcrs.com/firststeps.

ON THIS DAY: Waukegan’s three most famous sons are comedian Jack Benny, author Ray Bradbury and Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham. But arguably its most prominent daughter is Fanny Searls, born this day in 1851. She was the first woman to register for a class at Northwestern University, graduated from the University of Michigan medical school in 1877, was a noted concert pianist who studied under Richard Strauss in New York and made her mark on the scientific community as a collector of botany samples, including discovering a new species of prairie clover that bears her name. When her husband died in 1911, she disposed of her Illinois holdings by selling a Chicago house and donating her Waukegan home to the Hattie Barwell Settlement Association, which according to city historians, provided free health care in the days before county health departments.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.