Two more lawsuits add questions to Illinois’ dispensary license process

The Illinois Supreme Court may soon be hearing a petition to move to the cannabis dispensary lottery as soon as possible. (WikiCommons)

As Illinois regulators work to carry out Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order to create supplementary deficiency notices for dispensary applicants, two more lawsuits were filed this week in Illinois courts that may slow down a process that was supposed to have been completed on April 30, making it less likely that the state will issue dispensary licenses any time soon.

On Monday, a group of dispensary applicants who were awarded the opportunity to move to the tiebreaker lottery, petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court to shut down the state’s supplementary deficiency notices so no additional applicants can go to the lottery round. Then, on Wednesday another group, ten disqualified social equity applicants, filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court to be reinstated as applicants so they may receive supplementary deficiency notices. If that is not possible, the group of disqualified applicants asked the court to force the state and scoring contractor KPMG to produce detailed documents justifying their disqualification.

In addition to the two cases filed this week, two other cases continue to wind through Illinois courts, both of which petition courts to void the points awarded to dispensary applicants led by a veteran, on grounds that the points were either irrelevant to the General Assembly’s intentions or that the points create a unconstitutional special class, veterans, that de facto become the only group capable of winning dispensaries through the scoring process.

The case filed in state Supreme Court, SB IL LLC vs. Pritzker, argues that Gov. Pritzker, by creating the supplemental deficiency notices, acted beyond the purview provided by the 2019 law legalizing recreational cannabis licenses.

As the petition for SB IL LLC vs. Pritzker is before the Illinois Supreme Court, the court could choose to not hear it at all, or send it down to a lower court for review. According to a Supreme Court press representative, the court’s next session is not until mid-November, and it will not announce what cases are on the docket until the end of October. Meanwhile, the case filed by the disqualified applicants, 24th Regiment-Latino Veterans’ Unit LLC vs. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), could take weeks before even the first hearing. (Disclosure: This reporter once worked for a company affiliated with the plaintiff law firm in this case.)

“Gov. Pritzker and the state have a clear duty under the act to follow the process that was crafted by the Illinois General Assembly. They have no discretion under the law to change the process or violate the requirements imposed by the Illinois General Assembly. In our view, the Supreme Court should grant our motion, take the case and grant the petition for mandamus,” said plaintiff attorney John Fitzgerald of law firm Tabet DiVito & Rothstein. 

A petition for mandamus is a court order that directs the government to carry out an action, in this case to halt the supplementary deficiency notice process and effectively conduct the lottery with the 21 original winning applicants.

The second case filed this week, 24th Regiment vs. IDFPR, is less complex, calling for the state to publicly explain the status of disqualified applicants, and in fact cites a September 24 Grown In article, where an IDFPR spokesperson provides vague guidance as to whether or not disqualified applicants will receive any kind of notice at all.

“We just want to make sure we’re included once they create a process. We want it to include all applicants, like the notice says,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Claudette Miller of law firm Reyes Kurson.

It is difficult to find an Illinois attorney specializing in cannabis law willing to speak on the record about these cases because so many dispensary applicants have sought legal advice. But, numerous attorneys willing to speak off the record to Grown In suggested that it could be months before there is a resolution of the various dispensary cases, if they follow the typical pace of a court case.

Attorney John Fitzgerald thinks his petition, if taken up by the Supreme Court, will move quickly. “I really don’t think it will be dragged out that long. Under all the circumstances, the Supreme Court will move quickly on this. I don’t think we’ll be waiting until December for a ruling.”