The ghost of global accounting firm KPMG rises again for Illinois cannabis regulators. Credit: Gideon Benari / Flickr

A group of nineteen dispensary applicants are suing Illinois cannabis regulators, indirectly charging that state officials and KPMG, the accounting firm contracted to score applications, of colluding to award licenses to politically connected applicants and purposefully disqualifying and misscoring non-connected applicants.

“It is inconceivable that the applicants were scored anonymously or randomly, given the number of entities that have political connections who received licenses,” the filing by FMA Illinois 1 LLC et al v. IDFPR states. “Plaintiffs question the validity of the “random” award of multiple licenses to select groups, who upon information and belief received those licenses due to their political connections.”

[Read the FMA Illinois 1 LLC et al v. IDFPR complaint]

The suit is one of at least four lawsuits filed against Illinois cannabis regulators as the state’s administrative review deadline passed on Friday. The suits all demand judges to review their applications for Illinois adult-use dispensary licenses, charging that regulators failed to properly score the license applications and not admit them to one or more of the three lotteries conducted this summer for licenses. 

The deadline, Friday, marked 35 days since regulators sent messages to dispensary applicants notifying them of the state’s “final decision” on licenses. Illinois law allows license applicants to seek judicial review of a final administrative decision within 35 days of the decision. Other organizations have told Grown In they intend to file, but judicial clerk websites have not yet posted Friday’s filings.

In the application process, there were multiple examples of teams submitting identical applications, but receiving different scores, says Greg Owens, CEO of 40 Acres And A Mule, which is the lead participant in FMA Illinois 1 LLC et al v. IDFPR. Owens’ company is a friends and family investor group that financed ten different Illinois social equity-backed cannabis license application teams.

“It was strange that some of us had perfect scores and others didn’t when they were all built the same way,” said Owens, who also noted that many groups that have sued Illinois regulators have ended up with licenses.

“I assume this what they’re going to do: Just give out licenses. I’ve heard of an additional two hundred or so licenses coming next year. Are they just giving them out to appease those who are complaining?” he said.

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Editor Mike is an itinerate reporter, recovering political consultant, and strategy game devotee.