Activist: Let people sell pot directly in their neighborhoods

By May 10, 2020News

Former long-shot governor candidate Tio Hardiman sees it as a way to help more minorities get in on Illinois’ newly legalized cannabis market.

A former long-shot candidate for governor has an unusual idea to help more minorities get in on Illinois’ newly legalized cannabis market: Let people sell to consumers directly in their neighborhoods.

Tio Hardiman, an anti-violence activist who ran as a democratic candidate for governor in 2018, is calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to issue permits for people to sell cannabis directly to their communities, just like food vendors.

Hardiman says the state’s legalization rollout has left out people of color, despite the fact that Pritzker declared the law to be the most equity-centric in the nation upon signing it last year.

“The licensed cannabis businesses are already making millions of dollars from sales since January 1, and those citizens with the most experience in the industry are still in the streets unemployed,” Hardiman said in a statement.

Hardiman, executive director of the nonprofit Violence Interrupters, also is asking for Pritzker to provide amnesty for those with “felonies from illegal drug sales.”

The law currently allows for the expungement of certain drug-based criminal records and sets up grant and loan programs to help those “disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs,” Pritzker said upon signing the legislation last year.

Some, though—especially black lawmakers—have questioned whether the law is working as intended. None of the 11 dispensaries licensed so far in Chicago are owned by a person of color, and others have noted that the large amount of capital needed to get into the business is another roadblock for minorities interested in applying for a license.

That led black aldermen to try to delay marijuana sales within the city until July to address these perceived inequities, to wait to see how many of the new statewide dispensary licenses are awarded to minorities.

Hardiman provided only scant details of his plan. As a candidate for governor, the anti-violence activist had a measured approach to marijuana legalization, and called for legalizing only “small amounts” of recreational pot.

Edie Moore, executive director of the cannabis advocacy group NORML’s Chicago chapter, said that the idea for a permit system actually came up during the legalization bill’s drafting stage but was immediately shot down by the state.

“We never got very far with that idea. But in terms of equity, it means more people operating a legal business instead of an illegal one,” she said. “At the very least, the idea of a permit system is worth talking about to see what it would look like.”

A rally and press conference were scheduled for this morning, the statement said.

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