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Illinois’ marijuana social equity program labors to become operational

Illinois, once lauded for creating a potential social equity blueprint for the marijuana industry, continues to struggle to get its program off the ground.

Recreational marijuana sales launched nearly 2½ years ago.


But the coronavirus pandemic, licensing lawsuits, financing challenges and bureaucratic red tape have combined to bog down a program that Illinois lawmakers created to make the state’s cannabis industry more diverse.

State regulators are in the process of awarding 60 additional craft cultivation licenses under the social equity program, according to industry officials.

That’s on top of 174 conditional licenses that have been issued to social equity qualified applicants since last summer, according to recent state data.

That includes 40 craft growers, 52 infuser/processors and 82 transport operators.

But social equity cultivation and processing licensees are still developing their businesses and raising money, with some awaiting low-interest loans from the state’s equity fund.

And with 185

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