Illinois cannabis regulators got a bit of breathing room last week as a Cook County Circuit judge ordered a stay to a lawsuit charging that the state’s dispensary licensing process is unconstitutional. As a result of the decision, the state can move unfettered to award 75 dispensary licenses that have been delayed since May 2020, but the judge will allow the case to go forward again once licenses move to a lottery phase.
The suit, Wah Group v. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, filed by a group of social equity dispensary applicants, charges that the veteran’s bonus points tallied in the dispensary application scoring process creates a special class of applicants, which is illegal under the Illinois constitution. Because scoring was so tight, the suit says, only applicants led by veterans can receive a perfect score to enter the final lottery, which disadvantages every other applicant.
Seventy-five dIspensary licenses were originally supposed to be issued by May 1, 2020, but state fumbling delayed a lottery until September 2020, but then lawsuits put the award process on hold even more. Another dispensary lawsuit has been stayed as the litigants negotiate with the state. Last fall, Illinois announced a “supplementary discrepancy process” where applicants were notified of errors in their application so they could improve their scores. No updated scores have been released.
Judge Moshe Jacobius ruled that because the state is still in the process of scoring licenses, no harm has yet been done to the applicants. “I didn’t want to rule on the arguments of the state, [because] there has been no implementation,” he said in the hearing last Thursday. Jacobius also ordered the state to inform the court of when they have completed scoring and prepared a lottery date. Giving a hint of when the state expects that to be completed, attorneys for the state agreed to hold a status hearing on the case on July 15.
Separately, Judge Jacobius also agreed to dismiss the case against accounting firm KPMG, who was contracted by the state to manage the scoring process. Jacobius dismissed KPMG as a defendant on the grounds that Illinois law protects contracted accountants from lawsuits against actions taken by the state.