Illinois completed its third round of the state’s cannabis license lottery, conducted by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), on August 19th to award 75 licenses in total. However, due to a handful of legal situations, the licenses cannot actually be awarded until certain applicant’s lawsuits are resolved.
As this latest chapter of Illinois’ licensing process continues to unfold at what must feel like a glacial pace to the potential/prospective licensees, part of what’s holding it back is the pushback from advocates and certain marijuana business partners, who are also some of the potential licensees. WAH Group, LLC, for instance, brought a lawsuit against the IDFPR in which it alleged that the regulators excluded the company from its first lottery drawing in July by mistake. According to Cannabis Business Times, although they were told that they would be included in the next lottery drawing on August 5th, “WAH allege[d] in its lawsuit that the scoring process was flawed because regulators awarded bonus points to applications submitted by veteran-owned businesses.”
The scoring process, by the way, was a state assessment designed to help narrow down the over 900 original license applicants. After it was first introduced and said to be geared toward those most impacted by the War on Drugs (primarily people of color), only 21 applicants scored high enough to qualify for the original licensing lottery, prompting backlash from advocates. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker put the licensing lottery on hold temporarily and then signed new legislation, House Bill 1443, which put a major focus on social equity in the licensing process. Thus, the three-part lottery and scoring system emerged, but it seems certain applicants felt they were either intentionally or unintentionally excluded from the system. WAH Group, which announced during a supplemental scoring session that one of its partners was a veteran, “felt that those extra points [from being a partially veteran-owned business] were needed to receive a perfect score on their applications and qualify for the licensing lottery,” again according to Cannabis Business Times.
Just three days before the final lottery drawing, a judge ordered IDFPR to include WAH Group in the August 19th drawing, leading to the company actually winning two of the 75 available licenses. According to their attorney, WAH now intends to drop the lawsuit, which will further the process toward Illinois actually distributing the licenses. There was another lawsuit situation in the works, however, that is also still a small roadblock in the rollout. But considering the two plaintiffs, So Baked Too LLC and Suite Greens LLC, each ended up winning a license in the latest drawing, the entire licensing award program can move forward within a short time frame.