We’re out of pictures of people cultivating, so here’s a nice sentiment that seems contrary to this story. Credit: Gary Todd / Flickr

As Illinois begins to dole out its new craft grow licenses – and share final application scores – applicants with near-perfect scores but no license are confused and seeking answers.

James VanHofwegen, a real estate agent who first applied for a license two years ago, is planning to file an administrative review complaint against the Illinois Department of Agriculture because he missed out on a license despite receiving 982 points on his craft grow license application, the maximum number of points possible without being a veteran-led applicant. VanHofwegen claims the scoring system puts social equity application teams without military veterans at a disadvantage.

His complaint is one of many regarding the so-called “veteran points”. Monday, a temporary restraining order (TRO) was issued by a Winnebago County judge after 12 craft grow applicants filed a complaint on the overrepresentation of veterans. In the most recent round of craft grow license winners, all 48 won licenses as qualified social equity applicants, but also all of the license winners were veteran-led teams. VanHofwegen’s team plans to submit his case to court for administrative review before July 6, the 35 day deadline after licenses were announced on June 1. 

A hearing for a permanent injunction on the TRO is set for June 15.

“We’re at wits end with this process. Throughout every step of this process, we still ended up with a perfect score and still didn’t receive a license,” VanHofwegen says. “There’s nothing right about this no matter how you slice it.”

He stresses that while he truly respects veterans, he believes that the process still gave unconstitutional preferential treatment of them that made it impossible for anyone else not a veteran to receive a license.

“You gave a population that represents 6 percent of the state 100 percent of all licenses this year. Since when did growing weed require putting my life on the line to fighting war? My dad was a Vietnam veteran. Producing a high quality product should have nothing to do with military service,” VanHofwegen says. 

Attorney David Standa, an attorney who specializes in cannabis law at Greenspoon Marder, says the licenses process hurts applicants and makes it impossible for those to apply without veteran status. 

“They made the veterans’ points become the most significant part of getting a license,” Standa says. “I have the utmost respect for our veterans and those that have served. But this is setting back true social equity in the state and hurts minority representation.”

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Trey Arline is Grown In’s Midwest Reporter. He was most recently with the Daily Herald, but has also reported for Vegas PBS, The Nevada Independent, and the Associated Press.