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53 pot shop lottery winners announced, including some new players, some with deep ties to existing industry

The winners include Ricky Hendon, the former state senator who had served as an advocate for jilted applicants last year. His company, Westside Visionaries LLC, scored a highly sought after license in a region that covers Chicago.

Following a year of acrimony and delays, state officials on Wednesday announced that 53 firms entered in the state’s first pot shop lottery had earned the rights to 55 lucrative licenses.

The winners, selected from 626 finalists, include some firms already linked to the state’s pot industry and what appears to be a host of new players. Two more lottery drawings for 130 additional licenses will be held next month, giving other firms in the pool of over 900 total applicants more opportunities to score.

Former state Sen. Rickey Hendon spent much of the past year advocating for himself and other social equity applicants, a designation created to bolster minority ownership in the white-dominated industry. On Thursday, all the fighting paid off. His company, Westside Visionaries LLC, won a sought-after license in a region that covers Chicago.

“My daughter had me crying on the phone. We’re one of them praying families,” Hendon said. “Everybody’s just elated that we got a chance.”

Hendon led the charge last year when a group of social equity applicants pushed back against the state’s announcement that just 21 firms had qualified for a long-delayed lottery for 75 of the upcoming licenses, some of which included clouted and deep-pocketed individuals. Amid protest and lawsuits, Gov. J.B. Pritzker bowed to the pressure and announced a supplementary scoring process to expand the pool, which has now jumped to 133 groups. [Read More @ Chicago Sun Times]

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