The Chicago Tribune reports
The Illinois Supreme Court has denied a request to let the state name new craft cannabis license winners — meaning that all applicants must wait while some pursue lawsuits over their status.
The cannabis company 1837 Craft Grow LLC had asked the court to modify lower court orders preventing the state from issuing the next round of licenses. The court did not comment on the request beyond stating that it was denied.
By state law, Illinois was required to disperse up to 60 new craft marijuana growing licenses by Dec. 21. But at least 13 applicants filed suit challenging their disqualifications during the process. The appeal sought to announce the winners of 47 licenses, leaving 13 to be named later.
Cannabis production in Illinois is dominated by several large, wealthy multistate operators that obtained medical licenses years ago and expanded into the billion-dollar recreational market in 2020.
State law calls for expanding the industry to include social equity applicants, defined as people from areas of poverty or that had high arrest rates for cannabis offenses. After more than a year delay in awarding the licenses, and complaints about the unfairness of the process, the state this summer awarded the first 40 craft grower licenses, before the court prohibition took effect, so those are going forward.
In the appeal, several applicants described how the delay had cost them tens of thousands of dollars to maintain property, employees and investors — a wait that could continue for months or years while litigation continues, absent a settlement with the state.
Another 185 new adult-use dispensary licenses are also on hold while lawsuits continue challenging the fairness of the licensing process.
Ryan Holz, the lead attorney who filed the appeal, previously criticized state secrecy in the license application scoring process for leading to the litigation. He wrote in an email that the new ruling harms dozens or more applicants, while not helping the 13 disqualified applicants, whose potential licenses would have been protected.
“Unfortunately, this is the current reality for craft grow applicants in Illinois,” he wrote. “No one with the ability to help them is willing to do so.”
Charity Greene, a spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration, noted that the Illinois attorney general had also sought to let the state name winners.
“From the very beginning of the cannabis legalization and licensing process, the administration has prioritized clarity and an ongoing commitment to establishing an industry that is accessible to Illinoisans of all backgrounds,” she wrote. “We will continue to work with applicants, stakeholders, and our partners in the judicial system to achieve that goal.”