Dun-dun!

Despite judicial victories for some, craft grow applicants continue to file additional lawsuits against the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) over the licensing process.

Brian Eckstein, a Sandwich, Ill. based businessman and owner of Groweth Inc, has filed a formal complaint against the IDOA in the Will County Circuit Court over its scoring. He claims that he did not receive a license from the Department despite following the model of other applicants, yet he has not been told why he did not receive a license.

The court hearing for administrative review is scheduled for July 22 and if it fails, Eckstein says he plans to follow up with a lawsuit scheduled for October.

“This is just another slap and another way to squeeze money out of people who have been harmed by prohibition with the false promise of a fair chance,” Eckstein says. “The thing is everyone wants to be treated equally, and I can tell you from my experience, this isn’t happening in this process. 

Eckstein has set aside 72,000 acres of land in Illinois for a growing facility since 2019. An Air Force veteran forced to retire via honorable discharge, he says that he was given a chance to speak to other applicants from the Illinois Craft Grow Association who received perfect scores to learn how to obtain enough points for a license. He scored a 973, which include the veteran points on his application.

Others have taken umbrage with the state’s licensing process in recent months. These range from craft grow applicants getting rejected with the most point they are allowed to have without veteran ownership, to minority dispensary applicants who needed a new state lottery to settle a “supercase” to distribute them.

Last month, a group of twelve craft grow applicants filed for a temporary restraining order which claimed that the state’s award process was unfairly biased towards veterans. All 48 new craft grow licenses were under veteran ownership. Their request was denied by a Winnebago County judge.

Eckstein’s story runs counter to the claim made by attorney John Murray, who claimed in the TRO request that veterans were a favored class in Illinois when it came to license distribution.

42% of the new licenses are majority Black-owned, 36% are majority White-owned, 8% (4) are majority Hispanic-owned, and 8% are owned by a partnership group.

“The public should know how most people are worse off now to the benefit of the state because of the process, and from lack of transparency from our government officials,” Eckstein says.

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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.