Almost seven months after licenses were supposed to be awarded, on Tuesday, Illinois craft grow, transport, and infuser applicants suddenly started receiving deficiency notices in their email boxes. The notices move Illinois one step closer to actually issuing more cannabis licenses. While the dozen applicants Grown In spoke to were all happy to see the process finally moving forward, all expressed concern about rallying their teams together after such a long wait.
“People didn’t know this was coming, Their teams have largely disbanded. People are scrambling to figure out how to respond,” said Illinois Craft Cannabis Association (ICCA) president Paul Magelli.
“You have nine days now to rectify all applications. It’s a heavy lift,” said craft grow applicant Anton Seals a day after getting his notice. “You’re not going to have someone help you do it. And I’m super busy right now, so we have to see how we’ll push this over the line. I don’t have forty to fifty hours to carve out for a, ‘Maybe’.”
Transport applicants received notices of qualification, stating, “the application identified above has scored at least 75% of the available points. The Department is still in the process of evaluating whether your application meets all of the statutory requirements necessary to receive a transporter license.”
That statement created some confusion among applicants.
“It’s not clear exactly what the purpose of that notice was,” said Scott Redman, whose team received one of the transport notices. “I think it means basically the same unstated thing that the craft grow and infuser letters meant. That they graded the subjective parts but they still want to double check…I think.”
Indeed, a clarification from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which regulates craft grow, infuser, and transport licenses, indicated that Redman’s guess is probably on track.
“Achieving a minimum of 75% of the available points is only one of the statutory requirements for receiving a transporter license. The department is still reviewing transporter applications for the remaining statutory requirements,” said a spokesperson Wednesday night.
The craft grow and infuser notices were supplementary discrepancy notices, with more detail than those sent out last summer. In this round, notices specified what statute paragraph applied to each section of the application, with a phrase or two explaining what element from the application section needed to be amended. Those notices merely alerted applicants if there was a missing item, or a status, such as veteran or social equity, was broadly unproven.
“As far as the notice itself, there are ways it could be better. But I am really happy they sent the information they sent, what measures were lacking information, what regulations govern each measure,” said one applicant with craft grow plans for Vandalia that asked to remain anonymous. “That’s more than what a lot of people knew they had to do in their initial application. I’m happy the state is stepping up to say, here’s how measure 1 and 2 can be better, rather than just saying you’re missing measure A, that would be heartless in my opinion.”
But details on how to amend the applications remains unclear, say applicants struggling to get their teams back together after months of waiting. For instance, “Is there a page limit?” asked ICCA’s Magelli.
Like the dispensary scoring process, the craft grow and infuser scoring processes, run by the Department of Agriculture, were contracted to accounting firm KPMG. Last summer the dispensary scoring process was the target of numerous criticisms, as there were numerous scoring errors pointed out by applicants. The process ultimately drew half a dozen lawsuits, some of which are still in the process of litigation.
“Ensuring applications are scored accurately and efficiently is a top priority for the Department of Agriculture. The Department has quality controls in place with KPMG and is taking lessons learned from earlier scoring processes into account for craft grow, infuser, and transporter applications review,” said a spokesperson in a written statement.
There were 253 transport applications, 116 infuser applications, and 458 craft grow applications, according to the Department of Agriculture.
With just two days of reviewing notices, applicants mostly had positive feedback on scoring. However, ICCA’s Magelli says, “We have a number of concerns. Deficiencies have multiple applications with identical sections and different deficiencies.”
And then, when it comes to correcting the deficiencies, Magelli says his members are already talking about a kind of horse trading. “‘I have a perfect score on security, you had a perfect score on residency, how about we swap sections?’ Can we work with other parties to correct some of those? The state has provided no guidance if that is allowable or not.”