Nearly forty cannabis startups that possess licenses for craft grow operations in Illinois, after suffering Kafkaesque delays to the state’s social equity licensing efforts, now face a myriad of challenges getting their agricultural businesses to market.

From competing with Amazon for construction supplies amidst global shortages, to securing real estate in cannabis-friendly locations, to understanding distribution and sales practices of incumbent retailers, the fortunate few planting seeds for Illinois cannabis expansion are pushing a rope.

“COVID-19 put a stop to almost everything, yet demand on almost everything didn’t change that much,” said Scott Redman, president of the Illinois Independent Craft Growers Association (IICGA), a group of Illinois craft grow license holders unaffiliated with incumbent Illinois cultivators. 

Redman, who also serves as chief legal officer for an Illinois craft grow operation, says IICGA will hold an in-person event October 6 to elect a board and educate members as to what to expect when they sell product to Illinois dispensaries that in most cases also grow their own and are vertically integrated in Illinois among other states. 

“There will be networking and a panel of dispensary owners and operators as well as senior budtenders to discuss where they see and feel craft grow producers will fit into the market from their perspective,” Redman said. 

The IIGCA is one of a number of professional associations in Illinois focused on licensed and/or aspiring cannabis businesses. A separate organization, the Illinois Craft Cannabis Association, includes craft grow applicants who have not received licenses as well as entities that applied for and may hold infuser and transport licenses. The Cannabis Business Association of Illinois describes itself as “the statewide voice of the Illinois cannabis industry” and includes multiple vertically-integrated and multistate operators among its membership.

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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.