Bill aims to fix issues with craft cannabis application process

(The Center Square) – Recently filed legislation by state Rep. La Shawn Ford proposes to help fix issues within the craft marijuana cultivation application process and help get answers to more than 800 applicants.

A craft grower is a facility operated by a business that is licensed by the Department of Agriculture and the state to cultivate, dry, and package cannabis for dispensing organizations.

To apply for a craft license, growers need a $5,000 deposit and a place of business to operate from. The majority of applicants who have paid the application fee and secured a place of business have been let down because the state of Illinois not holding up its end of the agreement, Ford said.

“These applicants have had to acquire places of business, hire team members and all of this has come at a cost to applicants, and the state to this date still hasn’t lived up to its end of the agreement and approved more licenses,” Ford said.

Pamela Althoff, who is the executive director for the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois, said one of the reasons for the small number of approved applications is based on experiences from other states with overgrowth.

“One of the big concerns among the people crafting the legislation is that they looked at other states who have had an overgrowth of cannabis with nothing to do with it and nowhere to sell it leading some to take the product and try to sell it on the gray market,” Althoff said. “Illinois didn’t want that to happen.”

Ford’s House Bill 4097 was filed June 2 and has yet to be put on the schedule for reading.

Another section of the bill requires each adult-use cultivation center or Early Approval Adult Use Cultivation Center License holder that produces THC oil extract to set aside a portion of its total monthly production of THC oil extract to sell to infuser organizations to provide infuser organizations with an adequate supply for their infusion processes.

It would also prohibit dispensaries from advertising any cannabis products as “craft” unless it was made by a craft grower. And the bill give growers a 2-year reprieve from having to pay taxes under the Cannabis Cultivation Privilege Tax Law. Two years after getting the license, they would have to start paying the tax, according to the text of the bill.

Illinois lawmakers passed a recreational cannabis law that was signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2019. Lawmakers had sought to make the industry the most equitable in the nation. It included ways for people convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana to get their convictions expunged. However, critics have take issue with the implementation of the law, which has largely excluded minorities and other groups from taking part in the industry. The special craft growing licenses were designed specifically to allow people with less access to capital to participate in the industry.

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