As a local chapter of NORML, Chicago NORML is dedicated to ensuring equity for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the failed War on Drugs. After reviewing the social equity programs in other states and municipalities, including California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, we have drafted a program that can be the gold standard for cannabis social equity throughout the country.
Increase Diversity & Accountability
Expand the State’s current Business Enterprise Program to include cannabis businesses
Create an RFP process that gives MBE/WBE/VOB vendors priority for contracts
Incentivize established cannabis businesses to create diversity programs that contract with MBE/WBE/VOB vendors; that allocate a percentage of their bottom line disproportionately impacted areas (“DIA”); that implement robust hiring plans.
Require bilingual versions of the state’s cannabis related applications and other documentation
Create programs for outreach, technical assistance, workforce development, and skills-based training
Reduce Barriers to Entry and Successful Operation
Reduce barriers to entry in the commercial marijuana industry by providing Pre-License Assistance
Encourage the successful operation of new cannabis businesses by providing continuing education post-licensure
Expand License Types
Expand and Categorize licenses based on size with different requirements for zoning, application fees, and initial capital requirements
Automatic Expungement of Cannabis Convictions
Permit the expungement of adult and juvenile criminal records of cannabis-related charges and convictions
Relief from sentencing, penalties, and court costs for prior offenses
Reform of civil and criminal penalties
Engage woman or minority-owned coding groups to automate these processes for speed and scalability
Disproportionately Impacted Areas (DIAs)
Use best practices to define a DIA and determine eligibility for social equity program applicants
An area that ranks in the top 33 percent for cannabis-related arrest rates as measured by law enforcement
An area that has an annual unemployment rate of at least 15%
An area in which the median income is at or below the national poverty level
Proposed applicant eligibility criteria:
Resident in a defined DIA for at least 10 of the past 20 years
A past cannabis conviction in Illinois
A resident of Illinois for at least the preceding 12 months
Legal spouse or dependent of a person with a cannabis conviction
Income may not exceed 400% of the federal poverty level
ADDITIONAL COMPONENTS OF A GOLD STAR SOCIAL EQUITY PROGRAM
Illinois Cannabis Equity Commission. The purpose of this group is to ensure that:
Funding is set aside and a specific outreach strategy is implemented to inform qualifying communities about the social equity program
Program participants are getting the training and support required to be successful business partners
DIA’s are receiving their share of cannabis tax dollars
Adequate funding is set aside to provide cannabis educational programs to DIA’s to encourage entrepreneurship, learn about safe cannabis consumption, and address the myths, stigmas, and misperceptions of cannabis as a result of the war on drugs
Continued research is conducted to determine the impact of increased funding sources and the need for additional resources
Proposals for new program innovations and business models are reviewed to spur economic growth for equity applicants, apprenticeship students, and businesses
Community Benefits Agreement. All cannabis business applicants should be required to provide a Community Benefits Agreement that describes how the applicant will work to provide employment opportunities to persons that have been disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of cannabis and otherwise work to encourage and support Illinois’s equity goals.
Cannabis Apprenticeship Training Program. Provide funding for a cannabis apprenticeship training program to be implemented at the 48 Illinois community colleges and other vocational training facilities.
Create new entertainment districts and markets. The creation of new social/commercial entertainment districts or zones in previously impacted and blighted areas will foster a vibrant economy, jumpstart revitalization, promote tourism and industry. Cannabis-related business would be the catalyst for new businesses to help drive consumers and revenue to areas of the city that have been long ignored and abandoned.