Judges contemplate ordering more applicants into Tied Applicant Lottery; Ruling on veterans points kicked down the road

Zoom / Cook County Circuit Court

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Moshe Jacobius speaks to plaintiffs’ attorney Mazie Harris on Monday’s court hearing held on Zoom.

A Cook County Circuit Court judge in the Wah v. IDFPR case ordered Illinois regulators to allow a dispensary license applicant into today’s Tied Applicant Lottery, while another Cook County judge threatened to add two more applicants to the lottery with no judgement by last night’s publication deadline. Meanwhile, in the Wah case, the judge declined to immediately rule on whether or not veterans points should be discounted in Illinois dispensary license application scoring, but suggested he will make a ruling on August 30, after all the lotteries have been completed.

In a second case first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, Suite Greens LLC v. J.B. Pritzker, a judge was determining for a last minute motion whether two dispensary applicants, Suite Greens LLC and So Baked Too LLC should be added to the Tied Applicant Lottery. The Plaintiffs petitioned the court to be added to the lottery, claiming that they had made ownership changes within the state’s prescribed time, but the state removed them from the lottery anyway.

[Read the Suite Greens complaint]

In a marathon two and a half hour hearing Monday for the Wah case, with the first twenty minutes dedicated to which court reporter to use, Judge Moshe Jacobius became increasingly frustrated with the state’s argument that points obtained for military veteran-led teams were optional to the scoring process.

As the Wah case has become increasingly complex, threatening the status of cannabis licenses worth maybe hundreds of millions of dollars, Judge Jacobius seems to be pacing the case with an eye towards how an appellate court might review his proceedings, actually mentioning a couple times that he expects the loser to go to the appellate court.

Monday’s hearing was focused on whether or not plaintiff Wah LLC should be allowed to be rescored, provided veteran points, and admitted to the Tied Applicant Lottery, since the team is veteran-led and did not submit materials for the veteran points section, which was labeled “optional” on application forms. As such, Judge Jacobius was clearly using the Wah example as a test case on how the word “optional” should apply to the scoring process for every applicant, not just the plaintiffs.

The state argued that the word “optional” did not apply to whether or not an applicant should submit as a veteran-led team, but rather applied to whether or not the state should score an application.

“There were other exhibits that were optional. If anybody omitted one of those, the department could score the application, it just may not get all the points,” said Assistant Attorney General Richard Huszagh, arguing that if applications were missing mandatory parts of the application, it would not be scored at all.

This argument did not sit well with Judge Jacobius, who said, “If you say it’s optional, and it is not optional, that to me, constitutes as an error or omission,” meaning that the application process could be flawed overall.

Last week Judge Jacobius had ordered the state to allow Wah LLC to submit its veteran status exhibit and for the state to rescore it, resulting in the state awarding Wah full points, and thus a perfect score. Monday, after hearing the state’s arguments, the judge ordered regulators to allow Wah LLC into the August 19 Tied Applicant Lottery.

“I don’t think it is taking an extreme position to say that when somebody’s told your submission is optional, and then in retrospect it becomes mandatory, and they qualify, and the department can see they can qualify,” said Jacobius, “I believe that in this particular case I order that Wah should be able to participate in the lottery that is planned for the 19th.”

Attorneys for the state then pushed Judge Jacobius to allow licenses for the first two lotteries to be released to the winners, but Jacobius refused saying that there is a possibility that rescoring of veterans points could affect the outcome of the first two lotteries.