ICCA believes we are starting to see the benefits of our legal action against the State for the benefit of our community.
The good news - the State of Illinois is beginning to share information about the craft process. IDOA finally posted an update on the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) website late Monday afternoon on October 19 (and made changes to it Tuesday morning based on feedback), with some process information and clarifications. ICCA welcomes this movement in response to our community's demands for timely transparency and clarity.
The bad news - the State's response is incomplete, misleading, inadequate, and/or unclear. Indeed, despite ICCA providing comprehensive guidance through our recent discussions, the IDOA has created more confusion with some of their responses.
ICCA's assessment of IDOA's updates:
License Issuance: Incomplete and wholly Inadequate. The State continues to fail to provide - and to refuse to provide - any guidance to applicants on the timing of license issuance including release of scoring, scoresheets, and award thresholds. The State indicates they are preparing another round of craft deficiency notices. ICCA's belief is that these additional deficiency notices are an attempt by the State to remedy likely problems caused by the State's and KPMG's poor application scoring process, before IDOA issues the final scores. While ICCA supports a fair and equitable process, these additional deficiency notices are emblematic of the State's continued challenges in application review and further protracts the scoring process and its lack of transparency. ICCA will continue to demand that the State bring scores out into the sunlight for inspection by all applicants.
Property: Misleading and Unclear. The State has sowed further confusion by asserting that property was not required by craft applicants, contradicting common sense, the concept of competitive scoring, the Act, Rules, and public Q&A. The State appears to imply it will allow applicants that have lost their property due to the State’s delays to replace it after license issuance. This would be a positive development but ICCA believes that the State must clarify this for all applicants that have invested significantly in securing and maintaining a property through the application process.
Zoning: Wholly Inadequate. The State has failed to provide guidance to applicants if they lose their zoning, for example, conditional or time-bound zoning. ICCA believes that the State must provide such relief to applicants that lose their zoning due to the State's ongoing delays.
Team: Incomplete. The State has finally made public its process to provide relief to applicants that have hired teams to qualify for social equity status as allowed in the Act. The State has provided directions to applicant's to request relief if they are forced to lay off employees due to economic conditions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. ICCA views this as a positive development and IDOA has provided clarification that Applicants that submit an Attestation are deemed to have been given relief upon submission.
While the above is helpful to those applicants with this specific employment challenge, the State has failed to provide clarity and relief for all other applicants that have lost, or will lose, Principal Officers, Board Members or other key organizational members due to the State's delays. The Application requires applicants to notify the State of material changes to their application, but it is unclear if these changes impact the qualification of an application. ICCA believes that the State must provide relief for such team changes for all applicants.
6 Month Deadline: Adequate. The State has recognized its delays present challenges to applicants being operational within 6 months and has provided a reasonable approach to relief if/as required by applicants. Specifically, the State will recognize winter construction delays as good cause for relief.
ICCA will continue to endeavor to compel the State to fulfill its statutory obligation to immediately issue craft grower, infuser, and transporter licenses and provide uniform relief for applicants. Prior to the IDOA’s publication, ICCA filed a series of emergency motions to attempt to bring about a timely solution with the State of Illinois. These emergency motions are even more important now that we can see how IDOA intends to continue its practice of keeping its applicants, and the greater cannabis community, in a state of confusion and continued indeterminate delay.