New lawsuit could upend the problematic licensing process for state pottery stores – again


New federal lawsuit aims to end a series of recently announced lotteries to determine the winners of 185 upcoming pottery store permits, marking the latest threat to the state’s troubled cannabis licensing process .

Sozo Health, a Michigan-based pottery company that applied for 11 licenses, filed a lawsuit late last week – just a day after Gov. JB Pritzker enacted legislation that seeks to put the long-delayed process back on rails. On the same day, the Pritzker administration also announced the dates for three lotteries to determine the winners of the new licenses, the first of which was set for July 29.

Sozo’s lawsuit, filed in Chicago federal court on Friday against Pritzker and the acting director of the state agency that oversees the dispensaries, now seeks to stop all three lottery draws, claiming that the licensing rules of the ‘State are unfair. Pritzker’s office declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The lawsuit targets a provision that grants five points of application to residents of Illinois, claiming it is discriminatory and violates federal and state laws. The lawsuit also contends that Sozo is effectively excluded from one of the lotteries based on updated qualifications to achieve social equity status, a designation created to bolster diversity in the cannabis industry.

Sozo achieved social equity status by hiring a workforce primarily made up of individuals who lived in an area disproportionately affected by the war on drugs or who had previously committed a criminal cannabis offense. But after being lambasted by critics as the ‘master slave clause’, the hiring provision was removed for one of the lotteries added in the new pot law, meaning Sozo can’t win the 50 crucial points needed to qualify.

The legislative solution was devised after the original 75 licenses were put on hold amid a series of lawsuits and resounding outcry from so-called social equity contenders, who raised concerns about the rating process and accused state officials of failing to meet their goal of diversifying the lily. white industry.

The pushback began after state officials announced last September that only 21 companies had been named finalists for those initial licenses, which are expected to be issued on August 19. Many of these candidate groups included influential and deep-pocketed partners, the Sun-Times and other found outlets.

Sozo, who currently grows and sells weed in his home state, has spent more than $ 350,000 while pursuing lucrative licenses in Illinois, according to the lawsuit. This included hiring, training and offering employee benefits.

While the lawsuit acknowledges that Sozo could still qualify for one of the next designs, it calls for a general halt to the process, as well as attorneys’ fees, expenses and other possible remedies.

Following last week’s announcement, Pritzker’s chief pot advisor said she was aware of the prospect of further litigation.

“It’s always a concern, but it’s also out of our control,” said Toi Hutchinson. “We know there are people who actively don’t want this to be successful. … And the more it remains in chaos, there are people who benefit from it, and unfortunately, it is not the candidates.

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