As we wrote about here and discussed on the latest episode of our podcast, there has been a debate recently about the proper interpretation of the word “location” in Illinois’s Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.
The Act allows for existing medical marijuana dispensaries to apply for a license that would allow those dispensaries to sell both recreational and medicinal marijuana beginning on January 1, 2020—at least six months before anyone else. But according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation—the agency in charge of overseeing marijuana dispensaries—the early dual-use license is only available for the exact dispensary locations in existence on the effective day of the Act (June 25, 2019). In other words, if a medical dispensary moves now, it will not be able to get the dual-use license. That was not what the legislature intended according to a letter from the Act’s two principal sponsors, Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, to Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week. In the letter, Sen. Steans and Rep. Cassidy called on Gov. Pritzker to persuade the Department to reconsider its interpretation because of “concerns that some medical dispensaries may need to relocate because of current size restrictions or municipal action if opt out was permitted.”
Gov. Pritzker responded quickly, but doesn’t appear to be willing to intervene at this point. In his response letter, Gov. Pritzker backed the Department’s interpretation, which he said strikes a balance between “early growth for existing medical dispensaries” and the state’s “commitment to bringing in new applicants through the social equity program.” Specifically, Gov. Pritzker noted that existing medical licensees will also be eligible to receive a recreational license for a secondary dispensary location, which mitigates the concerns expressed by Sen. Steans and Rep. Cassidy. That said, the governor seems more sympathetic if the requested relocation is necessitated by a municipality opting out of recreational sales. In response to that concern, the governor wrote, “[t]he Department will continue to monitor the situation to assess and my office is more than willing to discuss potential solutions with you when we have a better understanding of the scope of the problem.”
We will, of course, continue to monitor the situation and report on developments on our blog.