In a couple years, you might see Illinois barns like this one become the home of craft grow operations. Credit: Carrie Larimer / Flickr

After years of hoping and waiting for the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDA) to issue cannabis craft growing licenses, some applicants are seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

Craft grower applicants are reporting that they have been approved for licenses on Friday, days after the IDA website said that 60 new applications would be approved. The applicants received confirmation via email from the department confirming they have been selected.

Issuing 60 licenses would more than double the current 40 craft grow licenses in Illinois and help give more individuals an opportunity to enter the cannabis industry. Jeff Fulgenzi, a farmer in Springfield, Il. says that he has been waiting since the summer of 2020 to receive his craft grow license, moving locations originally set up for the grow facility in the process. 

“We’re looking forward to growing some of the best quality in the state and we know the market is ready,” Fulgenzi says. “I’m excited about the opportunity and we look forward to working with the department to help improve a quality program in the state.”

The increase of craft growing licenses has long been an issue in Illinois. Litigation and advocacy notwithstanding craft growers in the state have sought reform since Illinois legalized adult use in 2019. The Illinois legislature declined to include any cannabis reform in their plans this year, including expanding canopy sizes for craft growers in the state from 5,000 square feet to 14,000 square feet.

Fulgenzi and Merrill Magelli of Streator Il.,a new licensee who was approved to grow for John and Joe Farms, said that the IDA must increase the canopy to offset operating costs and time spent waiting for the licenses to materialize. 

A pharmacologist by trade and certified pain specialist, Magelli said that she wanted to enter the space to help people with physical pain, as well as stress and anxiety. 

“It’s been challenging for us, but they have finally come through,” Magelli says. “The ability to work on medical aspects of cannabis and help patients with pain and anxiety is very important to me and it’s why I wanted to get into the industry. I’m ecstatic about the chance to make a difference.”

Correction: The original version of this article erroneously attributed quotes to Gary Alexander rather than Jeff Fulgenzi. They were both on the same phone interview. We apologize for the error.

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Trey Arline is Grown In’s Midwest Reporter. He was most recently with the Daily Herald, but has also reported for Vegas PBS, The Nevada Independent, and the Associated Press.