Finch v. Treto, No. 22-2050 (7th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
The 2019 Illinois Cannabis Regulation Act legalized the recreational use of cannabis and established a licensing system for cannabis dispensaries. Applications for the first licenses closed in 2020; by mid-2021 the Department had allocated 185 licenses using a lottery procedure. The issuance of licenses was stayed during state-court litigation. For a second group of licenses in 2022, the Department established a point system that heavily favored longtime Illinois residents. The plaintiffs want to invest in Illinois cannabis dispensaries but neither lived in Illinois.
In March 2022, they filed suit raising a dormant Commerce Clause challenge to the residency provisions and sought a preliminary injunction halting the completion of the allocated 2021 licenses and enjoining the ongoing process for 2022 licenses. The district court denied the motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The denial of a preliminary injunction allowed the Department to issue the 2021 licenses; it did so, largely mooting the appeal. To the extent that unwinding the licenses remains possible, the judge weighed the equities and held that the plaintiffs waited too long to challenge the residency provisions; an injunction would severely harm reliance interests and disrupt the orderly completion of the first-round licensing process. At the time of the ruling, the Department had not finalized the criteria for the second group but a challenge was unripe because the Department might materially modify the criteria. The Department subsequently finalized the 2022 rules and deleted provisions favoring Illinois residents.