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Judge allows Illinois to issue licenses for 185 new cannabis stores following prolonged legal delay

The Chicago Tribune reports

After nearly 10 months of delay, a judge Friday ended the court order preventing Illinois from issuing 185 new recreational cannabis store licenses — though further litigation may jeopardize those licenses again.

Cook County Circuit Judge Michael Mullen lifted the stay that was issued last year, allowing the state to begin licensing new businesses, many of them started by Black and Latino owners.

The ruling means that companies that spent thousands of dollars to stay alive without revenue may now take steps toward opening, including finalizing zoning approval, buying or renting real estate, ordering supplies and hiring employees. That process may take several months to more than a year before the stores open.

The courts had prohibited licensing while considering lawsuits by companies that argued they were unfairly excluded from lotteries to award the licenses. State officials plan a corrective lottery to give those plaintiffs another chance to win a license.

By law, the first 75 licenses were supposed to have been issued two years ago, but were delayed by problems with scoring the license applications, which resulted in only 21 companies qualifying for a license lottery out of more than 700 applicants.

“People are super excited to move forward,” said attorney Ryan Holz, who represents businesses in line to get new licenses, as well as others that were excluded from the license lotteries.

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