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Firm lands medical marijuana license after being ‘disqualified’ under Quinn review

A company once seemingly “disqualified” by former Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration in its bid to sell medical marijuana downstate has now been qualified for two dispensary licenses, state officials said.

HealthCentral LLC will next begin the registration process for its dispensaries in Springfield and Collinsville, its attorney said, after an announcement Monday from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

Quinn left behind a list of businesses poised to land the coveted licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana without acting on it when his term ended in January, according to records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times. But HealthCentral’s two bids for dispensary licenses were labeled as “disqualified” in those records without explanation.

When Gov. Bruce Rauner later began to issue the licenses, HealthCentral’s applications remained under review.

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A former Quinn chief of staff, Jack Lavin, served as HealthCentral’s lobbyist. But Matt Hortenstine, HealthCentral’s general counsel, said Lavin’s role with the company never came up during the review process. He also said Lavin’s contract with the company ended in January.

“We were never, ever questioned with regard to Mr. Lavin’s involvement in any way, shape or form,” Hortenstine said Monday.

Rather, Hortenstine said state officials had questions about Ben Burkhardt, a former partner in HealthCentral. Another company Burkhardt owned had been sued in Colorado for allegedly handing out marijuana-laced candy to unsuspecting Denver County fairgoers. Hortenstine said Burkhardt resolved those issues in Colorado.

He also said Burkhardt and HealthCentral split amicably in February. Burkhardt could not immediately be reached for comment.

State officials also said Monday they had issued a “final order of administrative disqualification” to IL WelMed, which had also sought a medical marijuana dispensary license.

Contributing: Becky Schlikerman