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Cook County judge finally takes legal brick off 185 cannabis licenses

Friday, May 27, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sun-Times

Would-be marijuana shop owners breathed a sigh of relief Friday morning as a Cook County judge lifted a stay that had delayed state officials from issuing nearly 200 licenses for cannabis dispensary operators. […]

Removing the stay will allow the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to begin issuing licenses to 185 candidates who had been awarded them in a 2021 lottery that was itself delayed months as the state struggled to implement rules for the drawing. Lawsuits, COVID-19-related delays and administrative gaffes ground the process to a near halt.

WAH Group LLC, which had disputed the results of the lottery, this week withdrew its opposition to releasing the licenses. WAH Group will continue to litigate the rules for the state to conduct “corrective lotteries” for another 50 or so licenses later this year, attorney Mazie Harris said Friday.

This stay was just so ridiculous. WAH Group won a license in a lottery last August, for crying out loud.

* Tribune

By law, the first 75 licenses were supposed to have been issued almost two years ago, but were delayed by problems with scoring the license applications.

“People are super excited to move forward,” said attorney Ryan Holz, who represents businesses in line to get new licenses, and some who were excluded from the license lotteries.

But, he cautioned, there’s also a real concern that businesses that were excluded may ask for a new court order to hold up the licenses again.

Circuit judges shouldn’t have this much power.

…Adding… IDFPR…

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) announced the Circuit Court of Cook County has lifted the stays that enjoined 185 Conditional Adult Use Cannabis Dispensing Organization Licenses to applicants selected in three lotteries in 2021.

In anticipation of receiving further guidance in a related federal case, IDFPR anticipates releasing detailed information on next steps for applicants as soon as that guidance is issued. The federal case concerns objections to the state’s residency requirements for dispensary owners.

“Today is a key development towards our ultimate goal of creating the most diverse, inclusive, and robust adult use cannabis industry of any state in the country,” said Mario Treto, Jr., Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. “We stand ready to swiftly move forward in ensuring Illinois’ standing as a national leader in the advancement of cannabis equity.”

To ensure fairness for all applicants and correct any errors in the lottery process, IDFPR is also working on finalizing plans for three corrective lotteries to be held in June (one for each of the cannabis dispensary license lotteries held in 2021). Details on those lotteries will be announced by the Department when finalized. Those updates will be available on IDFPR’s Adult Use Cannabis Program webpage.

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7 Comments
  1. - Grandson of Man - Friday, May 27, 22 @ 1:28 pm:

    Great news. This calls for a bit of celebration. Wishing the new licensees great success. Another lottery will probably be held later this year for a minimum of 50 more licenses, so hopefully that will lessen future court actions/suits.


  2. - Unionman - Friday, May 27, 22 @ 1:34 pm:

    This is an ongoing problem in the courthouses around the State. The judges are more interested in other issues and not in the law. They then wield that power of contempt or threat thereof in an wieldy manner.


  3. - Homebody - Friday, May 27, 22 @ 2:01 pm:

    If a party disagrees with the stay, appeal. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307 specifically allows appeals of temporary injunctions/restraining orders as a matter of right. 307(a)(1) uses the term injunction, though 307(d) specifically uses the term restraining order, suggesting that for the purposes of Rule 307, they are interchangeable. I’ll let someone with more appellate experience than me weight in though.

    Stays like this are absolutely necessary, because the case law that is currently out there says that if all licenses get issued, anyone who didn’t get issued a license is SOL. A similar issue happened with the litigation around the Des Plaines casino license, where once the state issued the license, the courts ruled that all remaining cases were moot since the license was no longer available.


  4. - Chicagonk - Friday, May 27, 22 @ 3:12 pm:

    @Homebody - So if this stay is necessary, why does it take 2 years to make a decision? The judge apparently operates in his own timeline rather than the real world.


  5. - MBM - Friday, May 27, 22 @ 3:47 pm:

    While this is a bit of good news, please don’t expect these licenses to come out right away. You’ll be dissapointed. IDFPR issued a statement basically saying as much. As it stands now, the state is waiting for a federal case to move forward. At best, this is a further delay. At worst, the federal case could upend the entire Illinois cannabis license apple cart.


  6. - MBM - Friday, May 27, 22 @ 3:53 pm:

    @Chicagonk

    In fairness to IL courts, this has actually been a smooth process. The judge who put the stay in place retired last year. And then this and a bunch of other cases were consolidated into one supercase by the Illinois Supreme Court. Given all that, this case has moved right along.


  7. - Ruby Tuesday - Friday, May 27, 22 @ 4:21 pm:

    There is little chance the federal judge upends the whole process, given what she said in court. It’s no longer a question of if but when. This is a win for social equity.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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