As Gov. J.B. Pritzker appeared at a news conference Friday to announce investments to expand job opportunities in Chicago, a group of protesters showed up, demanding changes to the state's cannabis lottery process.
"The lottery is a game of chance," said Rickey Hendon, a former Illinois State Senator who led the protest. "We ain't playing no games, and we ain't taking no damn chances. He needs to fix it."
Jermell Chavis, a veteran, and a former school principal, Lamaildie Moore, were among those who didn't make the cut and showed up to request action from the governor.
"That didn't seem fair that I would have to compete with multi million dollar companies, white men that know nothing about my community," Moore said.
The state previously announced that only 21 of 700 applicants would proceed to a lottery for 75 licenses.
Two companies that were rejected for marijuana licenses filed a lawsuit last week to delay the state from awarding licenses to the winning applicants.
Southshore Restore and Heartland Greens are suing the state’s Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which regulates dispensaries, and Bret Bender, deputy director of the Cannabis Control Section.
The applicants allege in the suit, which was filed Friday, that the 21 groups are “politically-connected insider companies." The suit also says that at least one of the 21 companies lists as a manager a person identified on LinkedIn as a risk consultant for KPMG, a firm that scored the applications.
While state officials admitted the process may need to be altered, Pritzker has decided to move forward as planned. On Friday, protesters delivered a letter to the governor requesting a face-to-face meeting, and he has promised to listen.
"I'm open to the kind of changes that people are suggesting might need to be made here to the law," Pritzker said.