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Illinois’ pot shop lotteries are finally over, but licenses remain in limbo

A Cook County commissioner, a pair of NBA veterans and a host of existing players in the weed game all scored licenses during Thursday’s drawing.

Marijuana plants at a home in Honolulu in 2016. (AP Photo/Marina Riker, File)
State officials held the third and final lottery drawing Thursday for the next batch of sough-after cannabis dispensary permits.
AP file photo/Marina Riker

Illinois’ convoluted process for naming the winners of the next batch of new cannabis dispensary permits came to a close Thursday, although the future of the licenses remains uncertain.

That’s because they’re still being held up by an order issued by a Cook County judge. However, the results of third and final lottery could ultimately bring an end to the underlying lawsuit, which at this point still may have grave implications on the state’s troubled licensing rollout.

The suit, filed by the WAH Group LLC and HAAAYY LLC, has sought to upend the process over allegations the grading system created a special applicant class for veterans. On Monday, Cook County Judge Moshe Jacobius issued an additional order granting the WAH Group a place in the drawing.

The startup was ultimately designated the winner of two of the 75 licenses issued Thursday, one in a region that covers Chicago and another in the Rockford area. Mazie Harris, the firm’s attorney and one of its registered managers, signaled the group’s intention to drop out of the suit.

“WAH does not have standing to pursue the constitutionality of the veteran points, and it would not be in their best interest if the veteran points are ruled unconstitutional,” said Harris, who noted she couldn’t speak for HAAAYY. That firm was previously named a license winner in the first lottery on July 29.

The dispensary licensing process has long been mired in controversy and hampered by litigation. During Monday’s hearing, lawyers from the Illinois attorney general’s office pushed to resolve related issues during the administrative review process.

Here are some of the other winners:

  • AmeriCanna Dream LLC, a group that counts former cannabis regulator and current Cook County Commissioner Bridget Degnen as a partner, nabbed a permit, the second the company has earned during the lottery process. A spokeswoman for Degnen didn’t respond to a request for comment.
  • Viola Brands, which includes former NBA stars Allen Iverson and Al Harrington, also notched its second license win. “We are excited about the opportunity, and it feels great for me personally to have the opportunity to share my life’s work with my home town,” Viola co-founder Dan Pettigrew told the Sun-Times.
  • GRI Holdings, a clouted firm with deep ties to state government that counts restaurateur Phil Stefani as a manager, grabbed two permits. The firm has also recently scored craft cultivation and infusion licenses. A spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment.
  • Jeffrey Rehberger, the chief executive of the video gambling company Lucky Lincoln Gaming, earned his second dispensary lottery win with his firm Fortunate Son Partners LLC. Rehberger also appears connected to another company that won a new cultivation license. He didn’t respond to a message.
  • Edie Moore, executive director of the influential Chicago chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, pulled down four more licenses, adding to the two she previously earned. Moore played a key role in drafting the trailer bill that sought to end the licensing gridlock by creating the 110 permits doled out over the first two lotteries. She declined to comment.
  • So Baked Too LLC and Suite Greens LLC each earned a license after filing suit in Cook County court claiming the state “forced” them to unfairly give up spots in the lottery. “Honestly, I’m just in shock. This doesn’t feel real,” said So Baked partner Britteney Kapri, who noted she remains cautious. “Who knows what will happen?” A partner in Suite Greens didn’t respond to a request for comment.
  • The other winners included a heavy dose of applicants with ties to the cannabis industry, including Perry Mandera’s The Herbal Care Center, which won twice. In February, Chicago pot giant Verano Holdings announced it was purchasing The Herbal Care Center’s dispensary on the Near West Side and a second location in the West Loop. A spokesman for the Herbal Care Center didn’t respond to a request for comment.