A cryptic note posted on the Illinois Department of Agriculture website announced on Wednesday that it is finalizing efforts to issue 60 new craft growing licenses “and anticipates contacting applicants in the coming weeks.”
According to the website, recipients will be notified directly via email by the Department of Agriculture if they were selected. Once final documentation is received by the applicants, the list will be posted after those things are finalized.
The move, which would more than double the current 40 craft grow licenses, evoked a mixed reaction from Scott Redman, president of the Illinois Independent Craft Growers Association. He believes that while the state has been long overdue for more licenses and that it helps more people gain access to the cannabis industry, there have been other issues facing growers that need to be addressed.
“It’s something that people have been looking forward to for years,” Redman said. “People have applied for licenses as far back as 2019, and there are a lot of qualified applicants that didn’t get this opportunity. To hear they’re on the precipice of issuing these licenses is big news.”
Dan Schmalshof, a farmer in Macomb, Il., said that he is hopeful to receive a growing license after eight years of waiting since medical use was legalized to help his family’s farm in central Illinois.
“I really am hoping to save what we still have so my kids can be raised like I was so they could farm one day. With corporate farms and generational money backing many farms out here today, it’s tough for us to compete.”
The expansion of craft grow licenses has long been a fraught issue in Illinois. Through lawsuits and general advocacy, craft growers in the state have sought reform since Illinois became a recreational state in 2019. The Illinois legislature’s lack of action in cannabis related reforms this year – which included expanding canopy sizes for craft growers in the state – gave growers little hope things would progress.
“We don’t see each other as competitors,” Redman said. “The more craft growers there are, the more we get a voice in the industry. We’ll be able to shape the industry in Illinois in terms of products and that can only be good for all of us.”
Redman’s biggest concerns remain the lack of independent dispensaries in the state. He says that there is a massive disparity with the number of growers of cannabis and not enough people to sell it to, urging the Department of Agriculture to expand its staff to accommodate for current and new licenses to be issued by the state.
“The vast majority of dispensaries are owned by growers already. We need more dispensaries to be opened alongside the growers,” Redman said. “It’s scary to build a $10 million facility and not have places to sell it to.”