Illinois lawsuit: Cannabis license scoring favoring residents violates Constitution

A lawsuit filed in Illinois alleges the state has violated the U.S. Constitution by awarding extra points in cannabis licensing criteria for both residents and social equity candidates.

According to Law360, the suit – filed this week in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois – alleges that the state’s process of reserving an extra 55 points in license scoring, including five points for residents and 50 for social equity, is a discriminatory violation of the U.S. Constitution’s dormant commerce clause.

The two men who filed the suit, Juan Finch Jr. and Mark Toigo, claim they have hoped for years to win cannabis business licenses in Illinois but allege in the suit they were unable to compete on equal footing because they weren’t state residents.

That made it mathematically impossible for them to attain perfect scores with their license applications, the two plaintiffs claim.

So they filed suit, asking a district court judge to force the state to redo its conditional licensing process.

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That would entail:

  • Blocking final licensure for the 185 conditional permits that have already been awarded by the state but are in limbo because of other lawsuits.
  • Forcing the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to redo the entire permitting process from square one without taking residency into account.

Residency requirements – once common in states with legal marijuana markets – are being phased out over time, in part because of legal challenges such as this new one in Illinois and in part because of industry pressure on lawmakers.