State admits errors in conducting lotteries for pot shops, will now hold another one

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

Toi Hutchinson, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s senior adviser on cannabis control, said Friday “clerical oversight” led to some groups having less chances than they deserved in drawings during the first dispensary lottery.

State officials on Friday announced that a fourth lottery for cannabis dispensary licenses will now be held to give six applicant groups a chance to win additional permits after they were wrongfully excluded from drawings in an earlier lottery.

The latest development in the convoluted and acrimonious pot shop licensing process came hours before the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation was expected to announce the final list of winners of the next 185 permits, which still can’t formally be issued due to a Cook County judge’s order.

Toi Hutchinson, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s senior adviser on cannabis control, explained in a call with reporters that a “clerical oversight” led to some groups having less chances than they deserved and others having more shots in the first lottery held on July 29. The errors affected the drawings for five of the 17 regions where the licenses are designated.

Juliet Berger-White, Pritzker’s deputy general counsel and chief compliance officer, added that the new lottery aims to “create a fair process to address what the odds should have been” for those firms. And while additional licenses will be issued to the winners, officials didn’t say how many could be dished out.

Hutchinson noted that the rules for the lottery would be laid out in a court order, but it’s unclear which of the seven pending lawsuits related to the licensing process would be affected or where the order would be issued.

In a hearing last month in a case in Cook County that has held up the issuance of the 185 pending licenses, Assistant Attorney General Richard Huszagh conceded that applicants were excluded from a lottery due to a “clerical error.” Huzagh added they would have to go through a supplementary process to determine if they “would have won,” which Judge Moshe Jacobius referred to as a “simulated lottery.”

During that hearing, Huzagh specifically acknowledged that one of the plaintiffs, WAH Group, had lost out on a shot it deserved in the first lottery.

Charity Greene, a Pritzker spokeswoman, wouldn’t provide a list of the new lottery contestants, citing “privacy reasons.” However in the three past lotteries, the state published a list of qualifiers prior to the drawings.

Hutchinson sought to spin the announcement of the lottery — the latest issue in a problematic licensing rollout marred by delays — as an example of officials being “as fair as possible” throughout the controversial process. Despite the myriad of issues, she claimed the state is making good on its push to diversify the lily white weed industry, citing the designated winners of the next batch of lucrative cannabis licenses.

“When we’re looking at the numbers that we’re getting right now, and the actual reality of how many Black and brown license opportunities have been afforded through this process, there’s no other state that comes anywhere near what Illinois has done,” said Hutchinson. “Technical problems have been absolute, and It’s been painful to watch how long this has taken.”

Feeds,News,Region: Chicago,City: Chicago

via Chicago Sun-Times – All

September 3, 2021 at 12:10PM

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