An Illinois judge affirmed a stay barring the state’s regulators from awarding 60 craft grow licenses by a Dec. 21 statutory deadline and set a hearing schedule that guarantees the licenses won’t be awarded until well into 2022.
Today’s decision came about because last month the Illinois Supreme Court consolidated four cases affecting fourteen craft grow applicants arguing against their disqualified applications into Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Gail Noll’s courtroom. One of those consolidated cases included a previously issued stay on awarding 60 licenses that are due to be announced by Dec. 21, according to 2019’s Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.
While no craft licenses have been sold, current license holders have been seeking as much as $10 million for a paper license – one with no operational facility. In addition, Illinois regulators have been counting on craft grow canopy to provide competition to the 20 existing Illinois cultivators that dominate the market unfettered.
Today was the consolidated case’s first substantive hearing. Judge Noll was to hear two significant motions. The first, to modify the stay so that Illinois regulators could announce license winners but not transfer licenses, a solution similar to that used with 180 dispensary licenses also locked up in another courtroom, and second, a motion by the state to dismiss the case on grounds that regulators should be allowed to issue all licenses before the court makes rulings on the process.
On modifying the stay, attorneys for the state argued that Cook County Judge Neil Cohen, who had handled one of the consolidated cases, ia GP LLC v. IL Dept. of Agriculture, had overstepped his jurisdictional bounds by issuing the stay.
“The court finds no error of law with respect to Judge Cohen’s injunction and stay in the ia GP case and the motion to modify that injunction and stay is denied,” said Judge Noll, allowing the stay to stand. She then ruled against the motion to dismiss, on the grounds that the disqualifications issued by the state were final administrative decisions, and thus subject to judicial review.
Her decisions now set up a lengthy review of the evidence and a briefing schedule that stretches through next February.
Complete briefings are due by Feb. 28 and the next hearing date is set for Mar. 10, 2022.