Illinois Plans To Award More Businesses With Marijuana Pharmacy Licenses
After only 21 companies made it into the first state lottery for a medical marijuana dispensary in Illinois, Governor JB Pritzker announced that companies that missed the opportunity will get a second chance to get the grade. Earlier this month, the state announced a list of companies with the highest number of applications to participate in the upcoming lottery process to obtain a license to issue a pharmacy license.
With so few applicants making it to the lottery, the Illinois lawmaker's black and Latino Caucasian states wanted Pritzker to suspend the lottery process until the public can learn more about how and why the 21 finalists were selected. Some questioned whether the process was really fair, especially given the high number of applicants and the lack of transparency on the part of the state.
Pritzker has repeatedly said he does not plan to delay the lottery, and the governor's office has now announced that applicants who have not reached the 252-point mark will have the option to change their results in their application. The lottery is scheduled for the first week of September, so it could start on September 18.
Applicants will then have the opportunity to respond to the notification, amend their application documents, or request the State to withdraw their applications if they believe that there was an error in the assessment. The governor's office said that candidates who did not receive perfect scores from their applicants will receive scores sheets that list the points lost and the total number of points.
To earn additional points for their score, applicants must change the ownership interests of the organizations they qualify for to achieve a perfect score. Applicants must also achieve Veterans of Social Justice status, which means that at least 51% of organizations must be veterans or a group of veterans.
The Illinois Department of Professional and Financial Regulation will review the timely responses to the supplemental notifications and make a final assessment of the applications before proceeding with the lottery for licenses, the governor's office said. Justice and fairness have always been at the heart of our approach to legalizing cannabis, in collaboration with our General Assembly, and when I heard the concerns of many stakeholders about our landmark law, I said we needed to stop to address them, "Governor JB Pritzker said. Although this process remains a marathon, not a sprint, we believe that these new steps in this first round of licensing will bring more justice and fairness and provide insights to improve the process in future rounds.
To be recognized as a social justice applicant, the majority of business owners must have at least ten full-time employees, most of whom would meet the requirements of "social justice," live in an area disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, have no drug or crime history, and have lived in areas of the state with high incarceration rates for drug crimes. Pritzker defended the application process, pointing out that there were 21 finalists who gave social and justice candidates the chance to promote their business model and business plan.
He said earlier this month that about two-thirds of the finalists were companies owned by people of color. Hutchinson noted that applicants had applied for 10 licenses that would raise more than $4,500 for each new pharmacy licensed under the pharmacy, so there were inevitably some big disappointments in the first round. When we finish the process, we will have about 1,000 applicants for a total of 2,200, "he said. We knew it was going to be a thunderstorm, "said John F. O'Donnell, executive director of the Illinois Cannabis Business Association.
Both Hutchinson and Pritzker stressed that the reason the state issues 75 new licenses to recreational marijuana dispensaries is to identify any problems they may have had in the first round of the process and assess what changes may need to be made later. The governor said he would support the next round when it will award about 400 licenses, but he also stressed the importance of including an upcoming disparity study in the licensing process to help state officials understand how the industry works and make any necessary adjustments to the program as it moves forward.
Meanwhile, two companies that were excluded from the lottery filed a lawsuit against the state to delay the granting of licenses to the selected finalists. In their lawsuit, the 21 finalists said they were politically connected insiders within the companies.
The lawsuit also claimed that it was unconstitutional not to give unsuccessful applicants the opportunity to challenge their ineligibility. The lawsuit also states that one of the 21 companies listed a manager on LinkedIn, and another person was identified through LinkedIn as a member of KPMG, the company that evaluated the applications. Jim McGann, a spokesman for KPMG, said in a statement that the person named in the lawsuit was not involved in the scoring process.
A department spokesman declined to comment when asked by the Chicago Tribune, and lawyers for the two plaintiffs did not return the newspaper's requests for comment. No participant in the lottery received a perfect score, according to the Illinois Department of Health.
Southshore and Restore Heartland Greens should have been part of the lottery, the lawsuit says, but not because they are the majority - owned by social justice and military veterans.