When Separate Equals Hungry

A 2-part feature exploring food insecurity.

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Low Chances But High Hopes

Photo Credit:
Nyatu Marvel President/CEO of High Maintenance LLC

Cannabis has political boundaries informed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics which governs the total number of licenses for dispensaries that can be awarded each lottery cycle. A unique aspect to the industry to preempt saturation of the market and control the flow of supply across the state. In late April the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced that there were 2,693 entries for the state's Social Equity Criteria License (SECL), across the 17 BLS regions. As Region 5 has 36 licenses to award  it isn’t surprising that 85% of those who submitted for the lottery chose the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin BLS region. Next most popular regions are Rockford (R11) and St.Louis (R12) with 79 and 85 applicants vying for one license in each region.

It is a highly competitive process, but quite affordable leaving the state with $673,250 in income from applicants. Nyatu Marvel President/CEO of High Maintenance LLC says the low cost of the application was appreciated, especially because the chances to get one of those licenses is competitive. “It was important to have a low fee,” Marvel shared, “going into the lottery with such a low chance of getting one of those licenses. Being  affordable was a really good thing for the applicants,” he continued.

Marvel is one of the 2,299 applicants in the BLS Region 5, his optimism is balanced by his logical side. ‘I did not do any research on any of the other regions,” shared Marvel, “I chose Region 5, because of its proximity to where I live, but now that the list of applicants by region has been released I do think maybe I should have looked into applying for another BLS region because in some there’s only 2 applicants,” he continued. There are 14 regions awarding only 1 license and of them 4 had no more than 9 applications. The state's segregation influences the economy both directly and indirectly. As the industry seeks diversity there is not ignoring the elephant in the room. Out of 102 counties that make up Illinois nearly 7 out of 10 Black Illinoians live in Cook County.

His entrepreneurial spirit is anchored in his passion for advocacy and equity and as he awaits to hear if his number he’s celebrating the growth of his own cannabis intelligence. The budding business owner has just recently completed his Cannabis Dispensary Operations Certification at Olive-Harvey College and is ready to begin addressing the needs of disadvantaged communities through his company and broader outreach.  “If I get this license I’m really excited to hire my people… I’ve seen Black staffing as an issue at local dispensaries and in the community in general and am excited to create a pipeline for disproportionately impacted communities,I’m a stickler about social equity,” said Marvel.

“I would definitely select one of the regions where the applicants are minimal. I am not going to give up and am looking at avenues to be more active as an advocate in the industry."

His entrepreneurial spirit is anchored in his passion for advocacy and equity and as he awaits to hear if his number has been selected he’s already preparing for next steps and he is all too aware of how. Marvel is one of the nearly 2,700 applicants looking to make a difference through ownership in Illinois, as the state awaits the 55 businesses there is still much work to do to ensure they can operate and employ. SAFE Banking has yet to pass, and social equity applicants around the nation are being held hostage by the inequitable banking practices due to federal policies. Winners will have to pay $30,000 for a 2 year license earning the state $1.65M. As of the publishing of this article IDFPR has yet to announce the 55 lottery winners for the 2023 Social Equity Criteria License.

Photo Credit:

About Author:

Dr. Mila Marshall is an environmental professional and journalist with a passion for advancing sustainability in all sectors. Her passion is directed towards urban food systems in segregated cities.



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