The Cook County courthouse in Chicago’s Loop. Also: A Picasso statue that nobody knows what it really is. Horse? Woman? Baboon? Credit: Jaysin Trevino / Flickr

As Illinois crossed the deadline to file suit for administrative review of craft grow license awards on Thursday, July 7, Grown In took a look at one suit filed against the Illinois Department of Agriculture by six applicants, who charge that the state’s scoring system for licenses unfairly weights license awards so that the only winning applicants are military veterans.

All Illinois craft grow licenses have been awarded to veteran-led teams, according to state regulators.

Earlier this year, similar lawsuits were filed by dispensary license applicants against Illinois regulators. Those suits are still winding through court and are not likely to be resolved until 2023.

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County’s Circuit Court by Abby V LLC, Chicago Greenz, Herbal Remedies Illinois 1, FMA Illinois1, Diamond Star Underground, Purekmet, and NWA Holdings against IDOA Director Jerry Costello, charges the craft grow application scoring process made it impossible for other applicants who aren’t veterans to be granted licenses. 

[Download Abby v. IDOA complaint.]

The six application teams consist of social equity applicants and veterans – but the application leaders were not both veterans and social equity qualified, said Jume Akinnagbe, a member of the Purekmet application team. She claims the process was prejudiced against them from the start.

“These applications impoverished many social equity groups that believe in the possibility of winning but truly have no chance in hell unless they are connected politically and have deep pockets,” Akinnagbe says. “Social equity groups are pouring in their life savings to an opportunity which they know is not guaranteed.”

Qualified social equity applicants are defined as Illinois residents who have been living in areas disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs as well as those arrested for or convicted of cannabis-related offenses.

“The Illinois legislature has repeatedly indicated that while it intended to “encourage” veteran participation as principal officers, it was never its intent to deem the social equity program exclusively targeted towards veterans; the department has done just that by establishing an arbitrary minimum threshold of 984 points since veteran points represent 20 [out of] 1000,” the suit alleges.

The suit claims the IDOA granted veterans an unfair advantage in violation of state law, referencing the “Special Legislation Clause” of the Illinois Constitution that prohibits “special laws” to allow a certain class to hold a power or an exclusive privilege over others.

“The 20 points required for Veteran status to meet under the CRTA that are necessary for an applicant to qualify for the minimum threshold by the Department are arbitrary and there is no rational basis, legitimate purpose, or expressed intent in the CRTA or any legislative history that supports giving military veterans an advantage in the Illinois Social Equity Conditional Licensing process,” the suit alleges.

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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.