Visualization of what Illinois dispensary winners are thinking about right now. Credit: Marc Smith / Flickr

This story has been updated since initial publication.

Almost two hundred adult use dispensary licenses have finally been awarded in Illinois, after a judge lifted two stays barring the state from awarding those licenses to license lottery winners. But the licenses won’t be awarded until another federal case is resolved, say state regulators.

“The two orders previously ordered, stays, have been lifted,” said Cook County Circuit Court Judge Michael Mullen.

Two stays on 185 licenses had been issued by a previous judge, who has since retired, for a case, WAH Group v. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), which has been running since September 2020. The original stays were issued as WAH Group argued that the licensing application process was unconstitutional. Since the stays, originally issued in July and August 2021, WAH Group has been awarded dispensary licenses, thus losing its status, or ability to argue the point in court.

Earlier this week, on Monday, WAH Group’s attorney and part owner, Mazie Harris, filed a motion to lift the stays, attorneys for the State of Illinois since agreed, and within days Judge Mullen ordered the stays lifted.

“Finally. I’m excited, it’s been a long time coming. I’m glad we got through this mess,” said Akele Parnell, a dispensary license winner. “We can now go through the business of running a dispensary. We really hope the state just goes ahead and releases these. Let us do our thing.”

“I pray all these other departments are ready when the licenses are issued,” said Edie Moore, activist and dispensary license winner. “People will need to get in line for [zoning]. They’ll need those DCEO loans. I’m hoping all the departments used their time to get their work done. So there are not delays, backups, and bottlenecks.”

Today, almost all of Illinois’ 110 dispensary licenses are owned by multi-state operators, with less than 2% minority ownership, according to state records. The 185 licenses held up, were largely awarded to diverse owners, in an effort to provide social equity to those impacted by the War on Drugs.

A release from IDFPR issued after the ruling stated that it is delaying awarding the licenses as it awaits a decision in another case in the Federal Northern Illinois District, where Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer is reviewing a request for a temporary injunction on issuance of the licenses. Judge Pallmeyer last heard arguments on that case in late April, where an aspiring cannabis applicant charged that because of the state’s residency requirement in applications, the entire process is unconstitutional and should be thrown out.

Last month, Judge Pallmeyer said she would issue a decision “soon”.

This report was updated 2:41 p.m. CT, May 27, 2022.


Editor Mike is a co-founder and the editor of Grown In, a U.S. national cannabis industry newsletter and training company. His career has taken him from Capitol Hill to Chicago City Hall, from...