The lottery winners of Illinois’ 185 adult-use dispensary licenses are going to have to wait more, maybe months more, for courts to resolve a new set of tangles in a series of lawsuits of Gordian complexity. License watchers were hoping for some kind of resolution Tuesday morning in the WAH v. IDFPR case in Cook County Circuit Court, but the evening before, the Illinois Supreme Court issued an order consolidating the WAH case with four other cases in Cook and DuPage Counties. As a result, Tuesday’s hearing for WAH was consumed by discussion over which case would become the lead, and which judge would manage the case.
The Supreme Court order came at the request of attorneys for the state, who have argued that all of the cases with problems with the application process should be managed through the Administrative Law Review process, where judges review the final decisions of regulators. The WAH case was filed in September 2020, long before any decisions were made, but the Supreme Court’s order consolidates WAH and two other cases into the first Administrative Law Case to be filed, High Haven Dispensary v. IDFPR, a case pending before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Cecilia Gamrath.
High Haven’s complaint says the state did not provide explanation during the discrepancy notice phase of problems application evaluators had with the owner’s social equity status. High Haven, which believes it could have corrected its 23 applications if it had received an explanation, has moved the court bar the state from awarding licenses until its complaint is addressed by the court, and that as relief the court should conduct a “corrective lottery” to award new licenses. So far three other license applicants have intervened in the case with similar complaints as High Haven.
Although the Supreme Court ordered the cases to be consolidated, its order was unclear on which case would be the lead to steer the future of 185 cannabis licenses, valued at about $500 million. But, during Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Moishe Jacobius, who is the presiding judge of the Chancery Division, argued that precedent and rules call for the first case filed, which was the WAH case, filed almost ten months before the High Have case, so Jacobius seems likely the coming supercase.
Just consolidating the cases or moving the case to another courtroom means even more delays for the 185 licenses stayed by a July motion from Judge Jacobius, who allowed Illinois’ license lotteries to go forward, but not for the state to transfer licenses to winners, as he heard the WAH case, which charges the entire application process is unconstitutional.
In a press conference on September 3, Illinois’ top cannabis policymaker, Toi Hutchinson, loudly proclaimed multiple times that the state could issue many more licenses if the court directed it – a not so subtle hint to Judge Jacobius and others that if the 185 licenses were released, other applicants adjudicating their cases could also be made whole with a license of their own.
The WAH case is scheduled for its next hearing on the afternoon of October 28, while the High Haven case is not scheduled to be heard until November 1.