Lotteries for Illinois cannabis retail dispensary licenses officially launched on July 29

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Following a tedious one-year wait, retail store licenses have been distributed among lucky winners of the Illinois cannabis lottery. The eagerly anticipated event took place on Thursday, July 29 and saw entrants of which there were 626 who scored 85 percent or more on their applications obtain recreational dispensary licenses.

President and CEO of Helios Labs and Parkway Dispensary, Ambrose Jackson, was one of the lucky winners. Jackson and his team bagged retail rights to open an adult-dispensary in the state, which launched a legal recreational cannabis market in January of last year.

Winning the Illinois cannabis lottery wasn’t the only victory that the “cannapreneur” claimed during the month of July. He and his group also received a craft grower license earlier in the month, thus positioning them to establish a vertically-integrated company capable of producing and selling legal weed as part of the projected $2 billion industry.

“It’s a big deal,” he expressed. “I was fortunate, but everybody who wasn’t is still in a holding pattern.”

Illinois Cannabis Lottery winners need approximately $10 million to kickstart business

Moving forward, lottery winners like Jackson who is one of 55 winners must begin fundraising to open their cannabis retail stores. The Illinoisan business owner gave credit to Chicago-based Cresco Labs of Chicago for assisting his team in entering the industry through its business incubator program. 

Jackson believes that he and his team will require approximately $10 million to construct and kickstart dispensary services. So far, his family and friends have funneled around $250,000 into getting the cannabis business off the ground. 

“Some friends and family didn’t invest the first time, they thought we were crazy,” Jackson admitted. “Now that we won, they want in.”

Since recreational cannabis was legalized in 2020, medical cannabis dispensary owners that were previously operating in Illinois were granted priority status to open adult-use cannabis dispensaries in Illinois. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, 75 new licenses were put on the back-burner for more than a year.

Judge ruled against license-awarding one day before Illinois Cannabis Lottery

One day before the Illinois Cannabis Lottery commenced, a judge demanded that licenses not be awarded until he ruled on a lawsuit that disputed the process. Although Cook County Judge Moshe Jacobius approved of the state lottery being held, he adjudicated that licenses may not be formally awarded just yet.

The ruling was based on a case involving Wah Group LLC and Haaayy LLC, which went against the Department of Professional Regulation, Deputy Director Bret Bender, KPMG, LLP and Roe Corporation in the suit. The 2020 lawsuit was one of numerous legal battles contesting against the fairness of the initial scoring process.

Based on the plaintiffs’ arguments, an injunction should be imposed against the Illinois Cannabis Lottery. Specifically, a provision that awarded an additional five points to veteran-owned companies was challenged.

Applicants who boasted “perfect scores” were the only certified license recipients and since veteran-owned teams represented the only applicants with perfect scores, the scoring process was deemed unfair by the plaintiffs.

Moreover, two companies claimed that certain applicants had preferential superiority over other applicants, including former state cannabis regulators and applicants with lobbyist affiliation/connection.

Two more lotteries are set to commence on August 5 and August 18 for different qualifying categories. Meanwhile, the lawsuit’s next hearing is slated to take place on August 9.