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Illinois reports winners of 55 marijuana licenses in lottery

July 30, 2021 GMT

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — There are 55 winners of Illinois’ lottery for licenses to operate marijuana retail stores officials said Thursday, but the licenses can’t be awarded until a judge rules on a challenge to the process.

Awarding of the licenses by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation have been delayed for more than a year, initially because of COVID-19-related issues. Problems with scoring the applications added to the delay.

There were 626 eligible applicants that scored at least 85% of the possible 250 points on their applications. They were allowed to submit multiple applications in each of 17 regions in which licenses were awarded.

Cook County Circuit Judge Moshe Jacobius in the case of Wah Group, LLC, and Haaayy, LLC, versus the Department of Professional Regulation, Deputy Director Bret Bender, KPMG, LLP and Roe Corporation ruled Wednesday no licenses may be awarded until notice from the court. The plaintiffs asked for an injunction against the lotteries, pointing to perceived unfairness in the process.

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The plaintiffs claim several requirements in the scoring process were unconstitutional and contrary to state law legalizing recreational marijuana. One the intents of the law was to give licenses to social equity applicants who were especially hurt by the war on drugs. The next hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Aug. 9.

Gov. J.B.Pritzker’s cannabis adviser Toi Hutchinson says the lottery was a step forward in efforts to create racial equity in the white-dominated marijuana business.

“We look forward to seeing businesses get off the ground and into this space,” Hutchinson said in a statement

Lottery drawings will be held on Aug. 5 and Aug. 19 for 130 additional licenses, giving other firms in the pool of over 900 total applicants more opportunities to score. Those picked in the lottery will have one year to become operational, though officials expect some to open sooner.