Ill. Loosens Regulations On Cannabis Workers For Pandemic

By Diana Novak Jones
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Law360 (May 4, 2020, 6:24 PM EDT) -- In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has relaxed the licensing requirements for the state's dispensary workers to allow stores to bring on new employees without waiting for regulators' approval.

Pritzker signed an executive order on April 30 that said while the state is under its coronavirus emergency order, dispensary workers will not have to wait for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to issue them a card to start work.

Instead, they will just be required to get written confirmation from the department that they applied for the identification card, according to the executive order.

The order recognizes that Illinois' medical and recreational marijuana businesses were deemed essential in Pritzker's stay-at-home order, signed March 20.

But with some businesses facing a staffing shortage due to sick or at-risk workers, Illinois' rules on licensing were posing a problem for some dispensaries.

Kris Krane, president of cannabis company 4Front Ventures, told Law360 in March that he was pushing for Illinois to loosen its "badging" requirements during the COVID-19 crisis to give the company more options with its workers. Back then, he said he had many staffers who were off because they didn't feel well or were concerned about the health of their family members.

On Monday, Krane said the changes were very welcome as he works to ensure that 4Front's Illinois dispensary has enough staff to weather the pandemic.

"This is a major break from protocol," Krane said. "This is incredibly helpful, not just to us but really to everybody in the industry."

Krane said it could normally take a month or more to get a new hire onto the dispensary floor, but with these changes, that will speed up considerably.

The executive order also temporarily ends the requirement that dispensary workers must have a current identification card and have it visible at all times while working, as long as they have submitted an application to the department.

Dispensary workers won't have to enter their identification number into the state's verification system when they make a sale, as long as they enter information that makes it clear who made the sale, the order said.

The only workers exempt from the executive order's changes are the principal officer or agent-in-charge at the dispensary, according to the order.

The order also announced that the department would not be awarding the next 75 dispensary licenses by May 1, as the state's Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act originally required. It did not give a new date.

--Additional reporting by Sarah Jarvis. Editing by Haylee Pearl.

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