Pot shop applicants sue state, claiming they were wrongfully ‘forced’ to give up lottery spots
“It doesn’t make sense how they can delay a year and a half and come back more incompetent than when we started,” Britteney Kapri, who’s partnered in one of the suing firms, said of the state’s licensing efforts.
Two firms vying for lucrative pot shop permits filed suit Monday in Cook County court claiming state officials wrongfully pushed them to give up additional spots in this week’s third and final licensing lottery.
The complaint, brought by Suite Greens LLC and So Baked Too LLC, doesn’t seek to upend the licensing rollout, like another pending suit in Cook County is trying to do. Instead, the applicant groups want the state to give them all the chances they initially earned in Thursday’s long-delayed drawing.
“It doesn’t make sense how they can delay a year and a half and come back more incompetent than when we started,” said Britteney Kapri, a renowned poet from Uptown who’s partnered in So Baked Too. “The whole process has just been so confusing and aggravating the whole time.”
Indeed, the business of dishing out the lucrative permits has grown increasingly convoluted.
Last September, Suite Greens and So Baked Too were among the 21 groups that initially earned the perfect scores needed to qualify for the upcoming lottery for 75 permits. But after that announcement, the process was brought to a grinding halt when applicants cried foul and filed a series of lawsuits over the scoring.
Ultimately, the lottery was delayed as hundreds of hopefuls were given the opportunity to cure deficiencies in their applications in order to potentially qualify. Gov. J.B. Pritzker later signed a bill in July creating two other lotteries, which recently designated 110 more licenses to existing applicants.
The latest lawsuit hinges on an arcane portion of the state’s legalization law. Pritzker is named as a defendant, along with the state, the agency charged with dishing out the licenses and other officials.
A spokeswoman for Pritzker wouldn’t comment on the pending litigation, but she said his administration “is committed to facilitating a licensing process that is fair and equitable for all eligible participants.”
“[The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation] will continue working towards a legal cannabis industry that repairs the harms of the past and creates a pathway to participation for Illinoisans from all backgrounds,” spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said of the agency responsible for cannabis licensing.
Under the law, the state is split into 17 unique regions where different numbers of licenses are allocated. In each region, a single principal officer can’t be included in more qualifying applications than there are licenses available.
Kapri’s father, attorney Brendan Shiller, was listed as a principal officer on the applications for both Suite Greens and So Baked Too, as well as another group that didn’t initially qualify for Thursday’s lottery, Canndid Spirit Too LLC. Rightfully anticipating that Canndid Spirit’s revised scores would be perfect, that group and So Baked Too emailed Shiller’s resignation to state officials on July 22 to avoid having too many qualifying applications in certain regions, a conflict that would result in the loss of lottery spots.
While the emails were sent before the lottery participants were announced less than a week later, as required under state law, the suit claims the IDFPR still “forced” the plaintiffs to abandon three total spots in the lottery.
Shiller, a known entity in Illinois’ cannabis world, declined to comment. He has served as the attorney for Perry Mandera, the owner of the Herbal Care Center dispensaries, which were sold to the Chicago pot giant Verano Holdings in February in a pending deal valued at $17.5 million. Mandera’s firm now has 38 chances to win new licenses in Thursday’s lottery.
Suite Greens and So Baked Too both qualified for the two previous lotteries, but neither group has snagged a license yet. Woodlawn resident Diane Howard, an actress partnered in Suite Greens, said the bungled licensing process has been “beyond devastating” for her and other applicants.
As it stands, Suite Greens and So Baked Too both have nine spots in the lottery. Suite Greens now wants the state to grant it the two other chances it had, while So Baked Too wants one other spot restored.
“We want the state to recognize that they made a mistake and to fix it,” Howard said.