The Hopes of Illinois’ Social Equity Applicants

In this op-ed, Taneeshia Thomas discusses the challenges of getting a license for a legal cannabis business while still dealing with the repercussions of the War On Drugs.
The Hopes Of Illinois Social Equity Applicants
Taneeshia Thomas with her husband, Christopher Lacy; courtesy of the author

In this day and time, it is almost impossible to turn on the TV and not find a show or news conference or even live footage of an ongoing protest over “Black Lives Matter” or “Economic Equality”. The same situation exists with social media platforms, radio broadcast, etc., all sharing the common theme of social equity. While we all seek a solution, the state of Illinois is doing their part by awarding the coveted “Adult Use Cannabis” business licenses for Craft Growing, Infusion, Transportation, and Dispensaries to social equity applicants by using a scoring system that favors the social equity applicant. We believe in this vision at TGC Group and our dream is to “pay it forward”. 

We see the world, especially for minorities living in poverty, quite differently because of where we come from. “Black Lives Matter” is a movement to save the lives of all people and have human life viewed equally no matter the race of an individual. Economic equality is a totally different fight. Our communities that are impoverished need cash infusions. There needs to be financial infrastructure that recirculates the dollars from the poor communities, and that comes from having business owners in the affected community put their profits back into their community. There needs to be a system of lending that is not based on credit scores and criminal background checks because most people at the bottom will never qualify. 

An example would be my husband, Christopher Lacy, who went to prison for three-and-a-half years for growing cannabis back in 2009. He is not a violent man; he never even had a fight in prison. He spent much of his time in prison teaching inmates how to read, write, and most importantly, he tried to teach them economics. He is educated about cannabis because he has been intimately involved with this plant and has been growing it for about 20 years. Yet when he tried to apply for jobs in Illinois to grow cannabis, his invisible barrier started with the resume. Just think about it: my husband knows more about cannabis than most people in the industry today and could manage a facility with ease. No one can see his worth because of his background and work experience. So many others in our poor communities face the same situation. We know for a fact that there is hidden talent in the impoverished communities and prison system; we intend to find it and empower these individuals to rebuild what was destroyed by the War On Drugs. I speak for all the ghettos when I say this: Give us access to the capital and we will get the rest done on our own. Conventional banks have their hands tied with this approach because they are regulated, but private funds have more flexibility. The excess capital needed to rebuild will not come from jobs, it only comes from ownership.

Luckily, J.B. Pritzker and Toi Hutchinson are aware of this and hence created the social equity fund to help the social equity applicants fund their projects if and when they are awarded a license. We must find a way to give to the bottom so that the dollars can trickle up. Trickle Down economics is kind of like that movie “Platform” on Netflix: there are never enough resources to get to the bottom because the people sending the resources down have no idea how to get them to the bottom floors of society. Trickle Up economics can start at the very bottom rungs of society and still will reach to this highest level of the economic system because it’s built in such a way that it will inevitably get there. 

Capital Is Needed To Rebuild

These new licenses, literally pathways to financial freedom if operated correctly and efficiently, are revenue machines capable of changing our community. This change does not come from providing jobs, although jobs do help and will be available, but by providing capital to rebuild. These funds can provide scholarships, business loans, even small infrastructure projects that can be accomplished via the tax revenue generated by the local governments. We have already made a written commitment to give a portion of net margins to the village. Capital in the right hands can make dreams come true. In theory, poverty can be solved. Poverty is not a prerequisite to the American way of life. That is why we were so proud to get zoning approval by our village. They see what we see. We can change neighborhoods like Beacon Hill. The dollars must recirculate in the community. Wherever you see high poverty rates you see high crime rates. This is not a coincidence. If you can lower the poverty rate you can lower the crime rates. This raises the quality of life for everyone. We see the state is on board, the county is on board, the Village of Park Forest is on board, and the citizens of the community are on board. Now all we need is the license and capital to get the resurrection started.  

My husband, our three business partners (two of whom are veterans and one of whom is a woman), and I applied for a license. Unlike other applicants, we were only capable of applying for one license for a Craft Grow facility. Some may see this as a disadvantage because only 40 licenses will be issued for this purpose. I wish we could have applied for more to increase our odds, but resources were scarce and applying was not cheap. We decided to stick with the efficient market theory and put all our eggs in the one basket that we know we can carry and be successful with. Without the help of Justice Grown, we would have never completed the application; shout out to them and anyone else that helped “true” social equity applicants apply. 

The wheels are in motion so all we can do is wait to see who wins. I would hate to be on the team who must decide who wins these licenses. Everyone knows large corporations found ways to apply as social equity applicants because they only needed a certain number of “social equity” employees to qualify. But all you need to do is ask the employees, not the owners, if they have been cured of their financial burdens and if $15 has raised their quality of life to a middle-class level. The answer is emphatically NO. You cannot administer band-aids for heart attacks. If these large corporations are awarded the licenses, it will perpetuate the cycle of poverty. We do not personally have anything against the big companies. Like Toi Hutchinson said regarding the first round of dispensary and cultivation licenses, we needed the big company dollars to fund the next round of licenses. 

Well, the next round is here. Let’s do right by the communities that were truly affected by the War On Drugs. And on a more personal level and my reason for applying, let’s do right by my husband because he lost three-and-a-half years of his life and was excluded from participating with his family for doing what is now legal.

  1. This is the case I was making when Hightimes came out with the article of CA cannabis officials policing more than ever on illicit sales when in reality it’s just PoC trying to make a living while saving up to do it legit. They don’t have the ways & means that a white person would during the War on Drugs.

    1. It is a pleasure to know you understand the struggle. Please support the movement in any way you can. Thanks and we are here for you too.

  2. I have sever back and knee pain from over the years of lifting weights. I used to self medicate by smoking marijuana for the pain and it helped 100%. It also gave me the relief to where I built strength due to no body pain. Legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use would help the economy as well as the arrest that are made for small amounts. You would like to profit off of alcohol which has been proven to cause death, but not legalize marijuana which had no death count. We all know that some of our Dr’s, nurses, cops, lawyers, judges, firefighters and high profile lawmakers use marijuana. Let’s stop hiding behind feeling shame and open the doors to ways that help heal with some of our sicknesses which it has been proven. Step up your game Tennessee. The times are changing just like your cities are getting bigger. Think about the jobs that it would create on a “legal” level. Use the money made from legalize marijuana to fix park’s, books for schools, free tuition for schooling, better libraries, better security, creating jobs so people can get out of debt. Let’s get out the stone age and get aboard. This state has more chemical drug users and junkies than marijuana smokers.

    1. You are right. This once in a lifetime opportunity can improve the lives of everyone. My nephew has seizures and cannabis helped him live a normal life. I’ve seen similar results for years in medical field. I’m pleased to know you found some type of relief from your ailments. This plant is truly a blessing in so many forms. Lets keep fighting for our communities! We support you too.

  3. Years of narcissistic abuse, racism, insomnia, gang stalking, being exposed to abuse in government agencies both in front and behind the counter, having a child that will be sick for life, witnessing violence, coping with death and PTSD is how I started my journey I still don’t think people understand the trauma visited on just the average person living in poor economic conditions.

    1. You’re on point. Years of mental and physical abuse! We haven’t even begun to discuss how to heal from this. Cannabis consumption is mandatory for me to function in public because without it the anxiety is too much. Good luck with your struggle and you have a friend here.

  4. You forgot about his rave act that got shwagstock shut down and put the main member of the shwag in prison two years just so they could take his land. all cause some undercover mushroom busts at the festival.

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