Judge Moishe Jacobius’ courtroom demonstrated a new gravatic pull in the Illinois cannabis world Thursday, as the sprawling reality of a new cannabis “supercase” began to take shape. Responding to an Illinois Supreme Court order to consolidate five cases related to cannabis into one trial, the Cook County judge announced that he would be accepting briefings for cases that wanted to be consolidated in his courtroom. Besides the four cases ordered by the Supreme Court to be consolidated, attorneys for at least two other cases expressed interest in the consolidation Thursday.
Since September 2020, Judge Jacobius has been hearing a case, WAH Group v. IDFPR, charging numerous errors in Illinois cannabis license application process, as well as a charge that the entire application scoring process is unconstitutional in Illinois. Since the completion of the application process, other suits have been filed complaining of application scoring errors and problems with the license lotteries conducted in July and August.
In July, Judge Jacobius issued an order holding up the transfer of 185 dispensary licenses to license lottery winners, most of whom are social equity applicants. Each license has been estimated to be worth between $3-10 million a piece. As dispensary licenses are held up in Illinois court, the existing 110 dispensary license holders, mostly large multi-state cannabis companies. Illinois is expect to sell over $1.7 billion in legal cannabis this year.
Last month the Supreme Court ordered all these cases to be consolidated, and because WAH Group v. IDFPR has been running the longest of all cases, it seems likely all of the cases will be consolidated in Judge Jacobius’ courtroom. Jacobius is now inviting any related cases to submit briefs arguing they should be consolidated in his courtroom, a first step towards creating the supercase.
One important issue Jacobius will have to determine early will be the rules of how the cases will progress. Most of the newer cases were filed under Administrative Review Law, a process for appealing regulator decisions in court, cases under Illinois Administrative Review Law are not allowed to request discovery – subpoena documents as evidence for trial – while the WAH case, filed as an ordinary lawsuit with constitutional implications, could require a discover process.
“There’s probably going to be some necessity to brief it, and we should move with some alacrity. This is something that’s a statewide matter, and it’s a serious matter, and the case has been pending for quite some time,” said Jacobius in Thursday’s hearing.
The complexity of the cases mixed together will likely require months to resolve in court, say attorneys connected to the cases. A full resolution – and maybe even release of the 185 dispensary licenses currently held up – might not come until April or May 2022, two full years after when the dispensary licenses were first supposed to be awarded.
Jacobius’ court meets again today at 10:00 a.m. Central Time.