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Illinois Cannabis Shop Applicants Demand Hearing on Cook County Commissioner’s Cannabis Industry Ties

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The Chicago Sun-Times reported that cannabis shop license applicants have called on Cook County leaders to question former cannabis regulator and current Commissioner Bridget Degen on possible ties to the cannabis industry.

Former Democratic state senator and dispensary applicant, Rickey Hendon, believes officials should have a hearing to uncover whether Degnen is affiliated with any group that has applied or become a finalist for the highly coveted 75 upcoming dispensary licenses to be distributed in Illinois.

As the former deputy director of medical cannabis at the state agency responsible for issuing dispensary licenses, Degen claimed herself a cannabis expert in 2019 when she offered paid application assistance to two people connected to a group seeking dispensary licenses. However, Degnen has not responded to requests for comment regarding her alleged work in the cannabis sector.

“How was she involved?” Hendon asked amidst a news conference outside of the Cook County Building. “If she wasn’t involved, she should be willing to tell the Sun-Times and others that she had nothing to do with it.”

The claim against Degnen comes amidst a series of lawsuits regarding other connected applicants participating in some groups already approved for the lottery.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the GRI scandal involves the following clouted people:

  • Phil Stefani, restaurant entrepreneur 
  • Thomas Wheeler Jr., former high-ranking Chicago cop
  • John Trotta, former VP of purchasing and warehousing for the Chicago Transit Authority 
  • Ashley Barry, former director of operations for the Illinois House Republican Organization
  • Ross Morreale, former state Rep. Michael McAuliffe’s brother-in-law
  • Jay Stewart, former director of the agency responsible for issuing cannabis shop licenses 


Quad-City Times reported another scandal surrounding the cannabis licenses. This one involved the KPMG, a third-party consulting firm that was given $4.2 million to grade applications via a no-bid contract from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Applicants claim to have been given different scores on identical sections of their application while applying in different regions.

Governor J.B. Pritzker recently announced that any applicant who had not received a perfect score of 252 would have a chance to improve. If the applicant believes that their first score was an error, they can also request a rescore.

Governor Pritzker said he wants to take new steps to prevent these scandals from happening, The Chicago Tribune reported. He explained he wants to include “more equity and fairness in the first round of license awards and provide insight as we improve the process for future rounds.”

Even as Gov. Pritzker calls for change in these processes, it seems more scandals surrounding the Illinois cannabis license lottery are being uncovered each week.

 

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