Those hoping to cash in on the so-called Green Rush descended enmasse on the Thompson Center Monday, the final day to apply for marijuana dispensary licenses under the state’s medical pot pilot program.
Dozens were lined up when the doors were unlocked about 8:15 a.m., and from the moment state offices opened, the application counter was inundated with hundreds who plunked down a non-refundable $5,000-per-application fee and submitted staggering volumes of paperwork.
In fact, so much paperwork was submitted that state officials said they were unable to estimate how many applications had been filed.
“A lot of applicants waited until today to file,” Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program officials said in a statement. “The applications are voluminous, with boxes of backup documents and even more information on flash drives.”
No one will know if they’ve been licensed to sell medical marijuana until at least December, but many will ultimately be disappointed: Just 60 licenses will be issued statewide.
People trekked across Illinois to the downtown state building, which is the only place where applications could be submitted. Others sent lawyers in their stead, armed with hand trucks and mountainous boxes of paperwork.
Mark Huddle, an attorney for the group Illinois Grown Medicine, brought 25 boxes of paperwork to apply for five dispensaries in northern Illinois.
“Illinois history is being made. Not quite like Lincoln’s ‘House Divided’ speech, but it’s a marker of sorts,” said Huddle, who suggested the cast of characters who showed up to apply included “everyone from Cheech & Chong types to hedge fund guys.”
Huddle said he was submitting a massive amount of paperwork out of “due diligence.” But others grumbled about it.
“It’s the strictest law in the nation. The bureaucracy gets a little carried away,” said Mike Graham, of Mother Earth Holistic Health, who hopes to open five dispensaries in Will and DuPage counties.
But not everyone submitted large applications. Some with smaller investor groups or less complicated finances submitted their applications in a single binder or a hefty envelope of paperwork.
Standing in line with 12 boxes of paperwork, Kathryn Ashton, a regulatory lawyer for the firm Dentons, said she was filing three dispensary applications for a client. Ashton, like many other proxies filing paperwork Monday, declined to identify whom she represented.
She said the mass of paperwork was a chore to complete. But without submitting as meticulous of an application, Ashton predicted the chances of having an application rejected would increasesignificatly.
“It would be tough to get this done without some professional help,” she said, adding that the state has a legitimate interest in vetting those who apply.
“It brings some legitimacy to the process, but it was overwhelming to get it all done,” Ashton said.
By about 3 p.m., when new arrivals were being turned away, a slow-moving line stretched down two corridors of the office.A state official said the office would stay open until applications were received from all who showed up in time.
Most who made the cutoff seemed content to wait.
“As long as I’m in the line, I have no problem with the line,” said Gabriel Mendoza, 23, who like Huddle, is affiliated with Illinois Grown Medicine.