After nearly 10 months of delay, a judge Friday ended the court order preventing Illinois from issuing 185 new cannabis store licenses — though further litigation may jeopardize those licenses again.

Cook County Circuit Judge Michael Mullen lifted the stays that were issued in July and August of last year, allowing the state to begin licensing new businesses, many of them started by Black and Latino owners.

The ruling means that companies that spent thousands of dollars to stay alive without revenue may now take steps toward opening, including finalizing zoning approval, buying or renting real estate, ordering supplies and hiring employees. That process may take several months to more than a year before the stores open.

The courts had prohibited licensing while considering lawsuits by companies that argued they were unfairly excluded from lotteries to award the licenses. State officials plan a corrective lottery to give those plaintiffs another chance to win a license.

By law, the first 75 licenses were supposed to have been issued almost two years ago, but were delayed by problems with scoring the license applications.

“People are super excited to move forward,” said attorney Ryan Holz, who represents businesses in line to get new licenses, and some who were excluded from the license lotteries.

But, he cautioned, there’s also a real concern that businesses that were excluded may ask for a new court order to hold up the licenses again.

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