Governor Bruce Rauner on Monday issued medical marijuana licenses and permits to qualifying growers and sellers.
More than 50 licenses were awarded to organizations looking to open dispensaries, with five of those pending further review. Eighteen companies were also issued permits to grow medical marijuana, with three of those also pending further review.
Three weeks after Pat Quinn's administration punted the licensing process for the state's new medical marijuana program to their successor, Gov. Bruce Rauner said Quinn left the state in legal jeopardy, prompting him to issue the licenses immediately.
Jason Barclay, General Counsel for the Office of the Governor, said in a statement that “licenses and permits will be issued to the highest scorers in each district where the top scorer was not disqualified.”
Barclay also issued a subtle rebuke to Quinn staffers, who he said had left the state open to a raft of lawsuits.
"We concluded that these problem areas create a risk of substantial and costly litigation to the state," Barclay said. "As a result of our consultation with the attorney general, we have further concluded that there is a significant likelihood that the Quinn administration's decisions will not be upheld in court."
Rauner's team said the previous administration imposed arbitrary scoring cutoffs that were not authorized in the enabling legislation. Agencies conducted character and fitness reviews, which they suggested came at the wrong stage of the process. Furthermore, some applicants were disqualified without clear procedures, they said.
The decision was a long time coming. After first indicating that the licensing of growers and sellers would be completed by the end of 2014, the Quinn administration failed to issue any licenses and passed the process to Rauner.
"Governor Quinn did not approve any licenses for cultivation centers or dispensaries," a spokesperson for the former governor said in a statement. "There were no decisions made on this because Governor Quinn felt the process was incomplete. He refused to rush the licenses out the door and instead left the licensing decisions to the next administration, as was done with many contracting decisions at other state agencies."
It is expected that it will take at least six months for most cultivators to get their operations up and running. Cultivation center winners will receive a letter notifying them that their applications were approved, and they must accept that offer within 48 hours. Dispensary operators are to complete a rigorous registration process within the next 120 days.
The various strains of medical marijuana take an estimated four to six months to cultivate. While some growers say they can have their greenhouse or warehouse cultivation centers up and running quickly, most observers believe the majority of the state's first crops will not be available until fall.
See the full list of licenses and permits here.