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Cook County offers grants to marijuana businesses

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(The Center Square) – Cook County officials will spend up to $3.6 million on grants to cannabis businesses.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the program connects communities historically impacted by arrests and imprisonment for cannabis to opportunities to participate in the legal cannabis industry.

“In line with that commitment to equity, our new grant program will provide grants to cannabis-based business owners who hold State of Illinois Social Equity licenses and commit to operating in Cook County,” Preckwinkle said.

Will Jones, community and outreach associate at Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said his group does not favor legalized cannabis, although he understands the heart behind the equity provisions.

“It means that it’s enabling people, it’s facilitating people to sell and market cannabis and that’s something that we as an organization don’t think is good for public health,” Jones said.

Jones said pot businesses have been disproportionately located in minority communities.

“I tell people to get a picture of the saturation there, it’s more than Starbucks and McDonald’s combined in Colorado. So imagine walking down the street or driving down the road, you pass a McDonald’s or a Starbucks. Replace that with a dispensary and that’s more or less the saturation we’re talking about,” Jones said.

Illinois legalized marijuana four years ago, but the drug remains banned at the federal level.