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Illinois' Cook County Announces Cannabis Development Grant Program

The program will provide up to $3.6 million to businesses.

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iStock/Ben Harding

Cook County Government today announced the launch of the Cook County Cannabis Development Grant program, which will provide up to $3.6 million in grants to businesses that have licenses awarded under the State of Illinois Adult-Use Cannabis Social Equity Program.

“With the legalization of cannabis in Illinois in 2020, this new program will play a pivotal role in putting cannabis-based businesses on a pathway to success,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “I’m proud to say that not only are we keeping people who possess small amounts of it out of jail, and not only are we expunging the criminal records of those with cannabis-related convictions, but we are helping those same impacted communities that are now part of the legal cannabis industry."

The program offers grants to social-equity cannabis licensees to defray some of the costs associated with opening and operating a cannabis business in Illinois. The County will award grants based on the license type: selected craft growers will receive $150,000; selected infusers will receive $100,000; selected dispensaries will receive $75,000; and selected transporters will receive $75,000.

To be eligible for this program, business must have a State of Illinois Adult-Use Cannabis Social Equity license and commit to locating their cannabis-based business in Cook County.

The County anticipates that the volume of applications will exceed the amount of funding available to the program. Grant administrators will prioritize applications based on the following factors:

  • Date of license award (older license holders will receive priority);
  • Location of operation in a Disproportionately Impacted Area (DIA), with a commitment to continue doing so;
  • Majority of ownership resides in a DIA.

“The Cook County Cannabis Development Grant is a vehicle to support social equity applicants,” Cook County Commissioner Bill Lowry said. “It’s a vehicle to support the disproportionately impacted communities of Cook County, and it’s a vehicle to support small business creation.” 

The Cook County Equity Task Force recommended in 2022 that the County establish a grant program for social equity cannabis license holders. The program by design recognizes the record of incarceration and exclusion that communities of color faced as a result of the War on Drugs.

The Cook County Equity Fund, which is dedicated to addressing historical disparities and disinvestment in communities that are marginalized, has provided funds for this program.

“There is a saying: Put your money where your mouth is. And that is what the Cook County Cannabis Commission did,” said Willie J.R. Fleming, an independent social-equity cannabis license holder who is part of the South and Westside Coalition for Commerce. “I’m grateful and excited as a social-equity license holder that our Cook County Government was innovative, inclusive and creative in helping to remove some financial barriers we face in this industry. I hope this program serves as a model for other county governments locally and nationally.”

The Cook County Bureau of Economic Development has contracted the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) to serve as the grant administrator.

The Cook County Bureau of Economic Development (BED) will host informational webinars on the application process on May 29 and June 7. Interested applicants will learn more about the program and may ask questions of the program team.

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