Close to two hundred Illinois dispensary licenses edged closer to leaving legal limbo Friday as a Cook County Circuit Court judge set a late March date to begin planning for a settlement conference that would result in releasing the licenses to awarded winners and possibly provide additional licenses to 33 applicants who have filed complaints against the license award process.
Cook County Judge Cecilia Gamrath, who was assigned the dispensary license supercase when the Illinois Supreme Court consolidated dozens of complaints against the State of Illinois license process, called on the complainants to organize their complaint materials and resubmit it to her, so she can determine which complaints may be easier to settle, and which may require further study.
“I’m not against deciding certain claims before other claims,” said Judge Gamrath, who explained she would group claims into “buckets” and work to see which ones could be addressed first. However, she did not indicate when she might lift the court order first filed in June 2021 that bars the state from issuing dispensary licenses to last summer’s license lottery winners.
Judge Gamrath also unequivocally ruled against a state motion to open up the case to additional plaintiffs, saying that since the law clearly states a deadline for applicants to file complaints on the license process, “I have no intent to give them a second bite at the apple.”
On Thursday, before the court hearing, a group of license winners held a press conference asking the Judge to lift the court order, since the wait – license applications were first submitted in January 2020 – is creating significant financial hardships for applicants with lesser means.
“Enough is enough. These costly lawsuits are destructive to the entire future of the cannabis program,” said Edie Moore, a dispensary license holder and spokesperson for Chicago NORML. “You want to know who benefits from all of us waiting? Industry. We’re trying to be part of the industry, but we can’t get there because of these blockades.”
For her part, Judge Gamrath has indicated that communications outside of the courtroom will not be regarded kindly. In court Thursday she announced that she had received numerous letters from applicants asking to be included in the supercase.
“That is inappropriate communication with the court. Those letters are disregarded and for naught,” she said.
Judge Gamrath ordered the court to reconvene on March 25 to discuss a settlement conference.