The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules for the Illinois General Assembly (JCAR) on December 12 passed a rule that if enacted into law would enable Illinois Craft Growers to expand to 14,000 square feet of canopy. The current limit is 5,000 square feet. 

“We’re ecstatic that the state is allowing us to expand and we are looking into the process of opening up our third room,” said Marty Atieh, executive director of operations at Kaviar/Starbuds, which became the first craft grow to open its doors in Illinois in October 2022. 

According to multiple individuals familiar with the rule, the ability to expand to 14,000 square feet applies to operators with products in the market. License-holders that have not initiated operations continue to have a cap of 5,000 square feet.  

“This is a game-changer for those groups who can get there,” said Scott Redman, founder of the Illinois Independent Craft Growers Association. “

The first handful of Illinois Craft Growers, a license class created when Illinois expanded to adult-use sales nearly four years ago, began to come online over the last 14 months. After two years of litigation, the vast majority of the several dozen craft licenses awarded are far from becoming operational cultivators. Funding challenges for the industry at large, and craft growers in particular, have impeded their entry into the nearly $2 billion Illinois market. 

Expansion to 14,000 square feet, many believe, would make craft grow operations in Illinois more economically viable. 

“It’s a direct answer to investors who ask about the ability to scale up,’ said Redman, who is also a principal with Illinois Craft Grower Drecisco Farms. “Fourteen thousand square feet is a good start for somebody to establish a constant supply of a reasonable volume of product which is key.” 

While the JCAR rule is a potential boon to Illinois craft growers committed to operationalizing their licenses, out-of-state operators looking to enter a market with less than 25 existing cultivators are still restricted from establishing 14,000 square feet right out of the gate.

The Illinois General Assembly’s 2024 session begins January 16.

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.