One federal court lifted a stay on issuing 185 Illinois’ adult use dispensary licenses, while a second court was asked to issue a new stay, and state regulators announced plans to begin issuing licenses in late July.
Meanwhile, a new wave of lawsuits filed in smaller courts has begun to threaten Illinois’ cannabis program. The new federal suit on dispensaries was filed in Central Illinois Federal Court in Peoria, while last week a state court in Rockford, Ill. filed a stay halting activity with craft grow licenses.
Last Thursday, Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer in Northern Illinois Federal Court in Chicago brusquely swept aside a request from Plaintiffs Juan Finch, Jr. and Mark Toigo for a temporary restraining order on issuing the state’s dispensary licenses, writing “granting their unjustifiably tardy and sweeping request would not be an appropriate exercise of this court’s equitable powers”.
Judge Pallmeyer also denied the plaintiff’s request to eliminate residency requirements from future license applications processes, in particular 50 new licenses due to be issued this year. But, in a confusing note at the end of her 44 page order, Judge Pallmeyer says, “The Department is now free to issue the 2021 licenses, but must continue to abide by its stipulation with respect to the 2022 licenses.”
Exactly what the stipulation refers to is unclear in her order, since the “stipulation” mentioned during the case was in March, where state regulators agreed not to issue licenses until she delivered her order.
Plaintiff’s attorney, John Adams from Elmer Stahl, also indicated that part of the order was unclear, saying Saturday that he was “still evaluating that part of her decision”.
Meanwhile, another case, filed on May 26 by cannabis consultant Gareld Eaton and California-based investor Robert Bruno in Federal Court in Peoria, like the Finch/Toigo case, seeks a temporary restraining order to enjoin the distribution of dispensary licenses and to eliminate residency requirements from future license applications. That case is set for a hearing on June 22 in Peoria.
Meanwhile, on Friday afternoon the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, the agency responsible for overseeing dispensaries, announced plans to begin issuing dispensary licenses on or before July 22. Before licenses are issued, regulators will conduct background checks, ensure license winners will not end up with more than the maximum 10 dispensary licenses, and review records to confirm licensees are not delinquent in taxes or owe money to the State.
“We are about to more than double the number of adult use cannabis dispensaries in Illinois. This means countless more opportunities for communities that have suffered from historic disinvestment to join this growing industry and ensure its makeup reflects the diversity of our state,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker in a written statement.
Assuming there are no further court-mandated delays, Illinois plans to issue dispensary licenses in three waves:
- Wave 1, on or before July 22, 2022. Naperville-Chicago-Elgin BLS Region.
- Wave 2, on or before August 5, 2022. Other BLS Regions with multiple licenses available.
- Wave 3, on or before August 19, 2022. BLS Regions with a single license available.