Illinois cannabis licensing process delayed, lottery applicants engage in court fight

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

The licensing process for recreational cannabis retailers in Illinois remains in limbo.

Cannabis has been legal for adult-use purposes across the state since January 1, 2020, but a string of adult-use retail licenses have been put on hold by a judge.

Based on a report initially published by the Chicago Tribune, the delay was spurred on by a lawsuit.

Filed by the Wah Group, the lawsuit challenged the application process after 55 retail licenses were awarded in late July.

Unfortunately, Cook County Judge Moshe Jacobius’ order prohibits the state from issuing the 55 winners with final licenses. 

Additional complaints have since been filed by Suite Greens LLC and So Baked Too LLC.

Both dispensaries argue that they were not included in the lottery, despite earning the perfect scores required to qualify.

Illinois Cannabis Lottery: 55 winners chosen from 589 applicants

On August 6, 2020, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced the winners of the Social Equity Justice Involved Lottery. Conditional recreational cannabis dispensary licenses were distributed to 55 winners. Each winner was chosen from 589 unique applicants.

In order to be selected for one of the adult-use cannabis dispensary licenses in Illinois, applicants must have scored 85 percent or more in their applications. Two sets of criteria determine whether or not a social equity applicant is chosen to receive a license. 

They are as follows:

  • Criteria one: The applicant resides in a disproportionately impacted location.
  • Criteria two: The applicant’s criminal record features one of the eligible convictions associated with the definition of a Social Equity Applicant.

According to spokeswoman for Governor J.B. Pritzker, Jordan Abudayyeh, his administration “is committed to facilitating a licensing process that is fair and equitable for all eligible participants.”

However, she would not divulge any information about the pending litigation.

“[The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation] will continue working towards a legal cannabis industry that repairs the harms of the past and creates a pathway to participation for Illinoisans from all backgrounds,” she added.

License applicants sue state regulators for depriving them of social equity points 

Reports show that state regulators were recently slammed with another lawsuit regarding the Illinois cannabis lottery. Just a few weeks ago, High Haven Dispensary contested against the awarding of social equity points in a state court.

According to the suit, regulators didn’t award enough points to the company due to two of the dispensary owners’ background history. The suit claims that one owner resides in a disadvantaged location, whereas the other was arrested for drug paraphernalia possession in 2008. 

Details of the complaint confirm that the owners meet the 51 percent threshold for social equity ownership. However, High Haven attests that the scorers, without good reason, gave zero points in the social equity category – something that the dispensary owners described as an “absurd result.” 

The company has supposedly invested almost $500,000 to partake in the Illinois cannabis lottery.