The Illinois Dispensary Awards: Surviving the Implosion

Just last summer, Illinois looked poised to be a model of social equity and economic justice within the budding world of state-legal cannabis. Across the country, the licensing regime outlined in the Illinois legalization bill was hailed as a victory for the underclass. However, a much different picture unfolds before us today. Where the public once expected transparency and integrity, there is now alleged scandal and litigation. If you’re a frustrated Illinois cannabusiness owner, we can show you a way out.

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Cannabis Legalization & Social Equity in Illinois: Where This Emerging State Went Wrong



Over the last several months, Illinois seemed as though it were becoming a paragon of cannabis legalization and social equity within the industry. Unfortunately, a complete lack of transparency and communication has left many cannabusiness owners down and out.

Higher Yields Consulting Social Equity in Illinois: Where This Emerging State Went Wrong



Although this situation will inevitably turn into a lengthy legal battle, it isn’t all bad. The mistakes made in Illinois expose where social equity programs fall short. As a result, other states can learn from these mistakes and implement more successful programs in the future.


Here’s everything you need to know about the straight-up blunder that’s happened in Illinois and how you can recover if you’ve been affected.


Social Equity Programs Looked Bright in Illinois

Ideally, we wouldn’t have to discuss this issue — better yet, we’d be talking about how successful Illinois’ program was. Instead, we’re forced to focus on where it all went wrong. But if you’re still curious to know what a best-case scenario would’ve looked like, we’ve got you covered.


In a perfect world, all applicants would have submitted their applications to be independently scored by a private entity — in this case, KPMG International. KPMG would have blindly reviewed all submissions and sent “Notices of Deficiency” informing applicants of any operational changes they needed to make in order to be approved.


By showing social equity candidates exactly what to fix, this process would have leveled the playing field for them. In fact, one-fifth of the application consisted of questions designed to determine social equity status and give an inherent boost to such applicants.


Once the approval process had been completed, all successful applicants would have been entered into a random lottery. Subsequently, 75 dispensary licenses would have been promptly awarded.


Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, and that’s not at all what really happened in Illinois.


Applicants Pay the Price for a Grossly Mishandled Process

Illinois’ social equity program should have been transparent and successful. Rather, the entire process has turned into an opaque, suspicious fiasco for which applicants have paid the price.


KPMG was awarded a $4.2 million no-bid contract by Illinois to score social equity applications. In another exclusive deal, KPMG was awarded $2.5 million to score an additional 80 agricultural applications. The contract required applications to be scored anonymously as well as Notices of Deficiency to be sent to all unapproved applicants.


However, the majority of unapproved applicants didn’t receive their Notice of Deficiency. Moreover, the ones who did receive a notice received it directly from KPMG. This means that KPMG had access to the identities of all applicants and that the process couldn’t possibly have been carried out blindly.


In the end, only 21 out of more than 900 applicants were entered into this 75-license lottery. Many of these 21 applicants represent large, multi-state operations rather than social equity candidates for whom this process was intended.


To make matters worse, one of the 21 approved applicants is an employee of KPMG.


We may not yet understand how this fits into the whole narrative, but we do know that it’s a blatant conflict of interest. Furthermore, the lack of anonymity in the scoring process raises some serious questions about how this applicant was approved when hundreds of others were not.


All Is Not Lost for Social Equity in Cannabis Legalization

In the face of this debacle, all is not lost. Luckily, there’s still hope for social equity candidates both in Illinois and around the country. Politicians, local governments, and affected applicants all have the power to improve their own situations as well as those of their communities.



What Political Candidates Can Do

For political candidates running on the platform of legalizing cannabis, it’s crucial to know what you’re getting into. The legal cannabis industry isn’t as easy as it looks. Doing it right is incredibly difficult, but that’s how it must be done. If you’re running on this platform, look for experienced consultants to help you do so.


What Local Governments Can Do

Local governments can make or break cannabis programs. In order to ensure the success of legalization and social equity efforts, governments should work with organizations that are involved and experienced in the cannabis industry.


For instance, here at Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting, we’ve built an elite team of experienced cannabis professionals. Just take a look at Erik Range, our DEI Engineer and Minority Cannabis Consultant!


What Affected Cannabusinesses Can Do

For anyone affected by the social equity program in Illinois, we understand that this is a stressful time for you and your colleagues. We’re here to help. At Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting, we have a team of experts who will help your cannabusiness get back on its feet. Ask us about our Pivot Program designed specifically for cannabis businesses who have been affected by lost license applications and changing policies.


Contact us today to schedule a consultation today and learn more about how we can help.

The Key to Compliance for Illinois Craft Cultivation & Infuser Licensing

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Instead of treating compliance as an afterthought or a thorn in the side of your business plan, get to know it as your ally and constant companion early on in your journey. Compliance is the foundation that helps support everything else. At its worst, it levels the playing field and ensures a fair game while keeping the fans and players safe. At its best, it pushes you and your team to create the absolute best cannabis product. Learn some examples of these regulations, how to maintain impeccable compliance, and building a team based on an absolute dedication to quality.

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“Need to Knows” About Illinois Craft Cultivation & Infuser Licensing

"Need to Knows" About Illinois Craft Cultivation & Infuser Licensing

On February 14th, 2020, Illinois began accepting applications for a total of 40 craft grow and 40 infuser licenses due no later than March 16, 2020. Aspiring applicants should know this will be a highly technical process with more regulations to consider than in the dispensary round. Learn how this process may challenge you and how to approach each step to maximize your chances of winning a license.

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Maximizing Your Opportunity for a Cannabis Business License in Illinois

Maximizing Your Opportunity for a Cannabis Business License in Illinois

Recently, the state announced that the next round of applications will be open as of January 7th, 2020 for craft grow, infuser, and transportation licenses. Now, my team and I at Higher Yields Consulting are gearing up to host our second Illinois Roadshow to make sure potential applicants have all the tools, tips, tricks, and knowledge they need to submit a power-packed application. If you’re considering submitting an application, here’s what we learned from our first Illinois Roadshow, the number one thing that makes cannabis businesses fail, and what you can do to give yourself your best chance at winning a license.

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Marijuana Laws in Illinois: Maximizing the Odds of Winning a License

Marijuana Laws in Illinois: Maximizing the Odds of Winning a License

A few years ago, Illinois limited their cannabis business licenses to fewer than twenty. Recently, the state’s newest governor, J. B. Pritzker, has begun to open up the marijuana laws in Illinois to allow for more licenses – meaning more opportunities for growers, manufacturers, and retailers. While state markets like Colorado and California are relatively easy to break into, other states like Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois are notoriously competitive, which makes winning a license in the Prairie State an arduous feat. Here’s your guide to maximizing the odds of winning a cannabis business license within the context of the new marijuana laws in Illinois.

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