Illinois marijuana licensing on track after lawsuit dropped

Illinois marijuana licensing on track after lawsuit dropped


CHICAGO (AP) — A Michigan-based cannabis company on Tuesday ended its challenge of Illinois’ plan to authorize new marijuana business.

Sozo Illinois Inc.’s decision to drop its lawsuit will allow Illinois to proceed with awarding licenses to operate marijuana dispensiaries. The state on Thursday is to hold the first of three lotteries to award 55 licenses to applicants that scored 85% or better on their applications for recreational cannabis stores.

The licenses have been delayed for more than a year, initially because of COVID-19-related issues. Problems with scoring the applications added to the delay.

The scoring of applications by consultant KPMG resulted in 21 applicants achieving perfect, tied scores and qualifying for a tiebreaking lottery. Unsuccessful applications objected, claiming the process was unfair, because identical exhibits were scored differently. Wealthy, clouted, white male applicants won a significant portion of perfect scores, instead of the Black and Latino applicants who were meant to get an advantage as “social equity” applicants from areas hurt by the war on drugs.

In response, state officials decided to rescore the applications and the Legislature approved a measure to hold three lotteries to award the licenses. The second will be held Aug. 5, and the third on Aug. 19.

Sozo Illinois Inc. claimed Illinois law unfairly lowered its chances of getting a license. The lawsuit noted part of the law gives bonus points in scoring applications from Illinois-based companies, while another removed a bonus for hiring 10 people from areas hurt by the war on drugs. The lawsuit sought a court order to stop the lotteries.

The Chicago Tribune reports Gov. J.B. Pritzker spokeswoman Charity Greene responded to Sozo Illinois’ actions with a statement saying it has a priority of his administration to establish a legal cannabis industry in Illinois that is equitable and reflects the diversity of the state.

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