Cannabis retail applicants in Illinois sue over Gov. Pritzker’s license-awarding lottery

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Illinois is encountering a number of legal battles pertaining to the weed-friendly state’s attempts to demonstrate the benefits of its social equity plan and award 75 new cannabis retail licenses.

Three unsuccessful applicants are fighting against Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s license-awarding lottery. A report by the Chicago Tribune explained how SB IL, Vertical Management and GRI Holdings are urging Pritzker to grant unlucky hopeful licensees the chance to be reconsidered. 

Just 21 out of a possible 75 licenses were awarded; indicating that the social equity program for Illinois’ cannabis industry is not providing the opportunities it should be. With the market growing at an exponential rate, concerns are arising regarding the potential to meet rising demand.

Since a legal labyrinth may need to be navigated if the court battle is dragged out, plaintiffs are hopeful that the Illinois Supreme Court will demand Pritzker to revise his plan and accommodate those who didn’t bag a cannabis retail license.

Cannabis market in Illinois is thriving 

In spite of the hurdles that may need to be overcome due to this court battle, the legal market for adult-use cannabis in Illinois continues to flourish. 

A recent report from the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation confirmed that sales soared to new heights in August. During this month, consumers purchased more than 1.3 million cannabis products with a combined valuation of $64 million $3 million more than the previous month.

Sales also hit record highs in September, with monthly figures resting at around $68 million. Moreover, during the first nine months of the program going live, sales of recreational cannabis in Illinois racked up $431 million.

Medical cannabis operators who were already participating in the market before adult-use sales began were given an opportunity to serve consumers ahead of adult-use license holders; therefore the consumer demographic can still be served albeit on a limited scale while the licensing process is dealt with.

History of cannabis legislation in Illinois 

Cannabis was originally outlawed in Illinois back in 1941, all the way up until the Cannabis Control Act of 1978 legalized medical cannabis. However, even though this bill technically removed the ban on using weed for medicinal purposes, the Department of Human Services and the Illinois State Police failed to draft regulations.

Fast forward to the year 2013 and Gov. Pat Quinn managed to successfully sign the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act into effect. The departments of Public Health (DPH), Agriculture, and Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) were left in charge of hashing out regulations for the implementation of a program that would legalize the use, sale and cultivation of medical cannabis in Illinois.

Qualified patients were able to purchase their medicine in state-licensed dispensaries as of November 2015. The following year, cannabis possession was decriminalized. Then, on June 25, 2019, Illinois became the 11th U.S. state to launch an adult-use market; following the Governor’s signing of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.