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DeKalb residents might have insider path to marijuana business

DeKALB – If the DeKalb City Council allows for a recreational marijuana dispensary to come to town, some local applicants could have a leg up over others, thanks to a social equity program.

Illinois’ Cannabis and Regulation and Tax Act, which will make possession and use of marijuana legal for adults over 21 on Jan. 1, will give preference to people who live or recently have lived in “disproportionately impacted areas.”

The act defines these areas as places that have been affected by the criminalization of marijuana, according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. People from those areas, so-called “social equity applicants.”

Social equity applicants can get additional points added to their appication score if they meet certain qualifications. Possible qualifications could be if an applicant with at least 51% ownership has lived for five of the past 10 years within the designated impacted area, if the applicant has been arrested for any of the crimes now eligible for expungement under the act or has a family member who has been.

In addition to points added to the application, a business meeting the social equity requirements would have access to low-interest loans from the state. That could mean a dispensary in DeKalb could have local ties.

“We certainly want to encourage local businesses in general,” DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas said.

A map of the impacted areas, released Monday by the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, includes two areas in or near the city – one in the northwest part of the city, another comprising the downtown area, and south of Lincoln Highway to Taylor Street.

Other regions in Illinois that are designated as impacted areas include the south and west sides of Chicago, southwest Rockford, and parts of Joliet, Ottawa and Aurora.

Nicklas said that a discussion about where the city would allow a dispensary would follow at the Oct. 9 meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“Communities all around the state are discussing the pros and cons,” Nicklas said. He said that although some are opting out, most are embracing the businesses.

The city does not yet have a guarantee that, even if it approves of a dispensary in town, one will come to the area. Of the 75 permits that will be available Jan. 1, 47 will be in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin region, of which DeKalb County is a part.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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