Minority applicants still waiting for dispensary lottery one year later

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — William Bishop III thought he was the perfect applicant.

He served for 6 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, he has a felony pot possession charge on his record and he is a lifelong resident of the east side of Springfield.

He checked every box for a social equity applicant in the state’s marijuana lottery.

“There was so much hope man, it was so much hope when all this started man was out here work and rallying,” Bishop said.

That dream was all but crushed when the state released its first list of lottery participants last summer. Bishop was going to be left out of a new market that state leaders said would work for him.

Governor Pritzker stopped the rollout of the first round of licenses because it didn’t meet his equity driven vision. He promised a do over, but nine months later, there’s no date for the new lottery drawing.

“The Pritzker administration remains committed to issuing licenses and developing an adult-use cannabis industry in a fair, equitable manner which is why we have previously proposed two pieces of legislation to help achieve that goal,” a spokesperson for Governor Pritzker said in a statement. “The administration will continue to work closely with the General Assembly and support legislation that addresses equity challenges and ensures this new industry benefits and reinvests in communities hardest hit by the failed war on drugs.”

The initial rollback left Bishop with an all too familiar feeling.

“First anger, then there’s kind of like you go through a period of being disillusion you don’t believe in the system anymore,” Bishop said. “And then you can finally realize that nothing comes easy in a situation like this.”

Bishop is still paying to keep the rights to the plot of land he bought for his dispensary. It is one of the many expenses he has to cover for much longer than he realized.

Chris Stone helped launch dispensaries in both Collinsville and Springfield with Ascend. He spent months working with Bishop and other social equity applicants statewide. Every one of the 18 dispensary applicants and 14 cultivation applicants he helped were shut out of the lottery.

“The state has, you know, probably done them, not probably they have done them a disservice by continuing to drag this on,” Stone said. “And to allow this process to continue to go the way it’s going and costing all of these applicants, you know, significant amounts of money.”

Even so, Bishop still dreams of opening a dispensary and bringing jobs to his neighborhood.

“You know, you can never give up hope man. I knew all along that this was gonna be a marathon and not a sprint.”