Statement from Rauner General Counsel on issuance of medical marijuana licenses and permits

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Governor Rauner directed our legal team to conduct a comprehensive review of the evaluation and selection process that the Quinn administration used to recommend applicants for licensure in the State’s Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.

His request was threefold. First, determine whether the process used by the Quinn administration followed the law. Second, share our findings with the Attorney General and determine what, if any, corrective actions need to be taken for any failures to fully comply with the law. Finally, recommend a plan of action that corrects any deficiencies and fully adheres to the spirit and letter of the law.

Our recently completed legal review identified four potential problem areas:

1) The review teams imposed certain arbitrary scoring “cut-offs” that were not expressly contemplated or provided by law that effectively eliminated certain applicants from consideration;

2) The agencies conducted a character and fitness review of the applicants after the blind scoring process had been completed;

3) As part of the character and fitness review, several applicants were disqualified without clear procedures and standards for disqualification and without offering the prospective applicants an opportunity to respond to the information that was relied upon to make the disqualification decisions; and

4) Despite seemingly contradictory language in the rules promulgated by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the prior administration decided to award no more than one cultivation center license to applicants who were the high point scorers in more than one district.

We concluded that these problem areas create a risk of substantial and costly litigation to the State. We shared our findings and this conclusion with the Attorney General. Her staff conducted a prompt review and for that we thank them.

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. We have also relied upon the Attorney General’s legal guidance and must now take all necessary corrective action to make sure that these licenses and permits are properly issued in compliance with the law.

As a result of these conclusions, we are therefore recommending the following actions:

1) Licenses and permits will be issued to the highest scorers in each district where the top scorer was not disqualified;

2) Cultivation center applicants that were high scorers in more than one district will be awarded permits up to the three permit limit that was expressly provided by 8 Illinois Administrative Code (the “IL Department of Agriculture Rules”) Section 1000.40(d);

3) The artificial and subjective scoring “cut-offs” that were imposed by the agencies will be eliminated and licenses and permits will be awarded to the high scorers in those districts regardless of their final point total; and

4) Any applicant that was recommended for disqualification will be fully informed of the basis for that decision, given an opportunity to respond in writing and/or in-person to the respective licensing agency’s director and general counsel to contest the recommendation, and a final written character and fitness decision will be made consistent with the relevant pre-established formal standards established by the IL Department of Agriculture Rules Section 1000.110(j) or 68 Illinois Administrative Code (the “IL Department of Financial and Professional Regulation Rules”) Section 1290.70(e) – (f).

These actions may result in some additional minimal delay in a limited number of districts and for that we apologize to the patient community. The Governor has requested that this process must be deliberate, fair, and fully comply with the law. In order to accomplish those important objectives, these additional steps are essential to correct the deficiencies of the previous administration’s selection process. Only then can the public have the fullest confidence that the law was followed and these licenses and permits were awarded for the right reasons.