Etienne Girardet / Unsplash

Actual photo of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker preparing to announce cannabis licenses. Credit: Etienne Girardet / Unsplash

After almost a year of waiting, last week Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker dropped a glitter bomb in the form of 213 cannabis licenses in the laps of a lucky few. Teams, suddenly bestowed with craft grow, infuser, and transportation licenses, are now furiously working to figure out how much of their submitted plans are still valid and what to do next, so they can quickly enter the market and start making money as soon as possible.

“We were writing this stuff before the world shut down,” said Scott Redman, a winning member of Drecisco Farms, which won a craft grow license. “The first deadline was March 15. We kept our timelines in there, but who knows what it’s going to be now?”

“What’s our primary concern? If you talk to anybody about to embark on a construction project, it’s price. if you look at the budget in anybody’s application, those are out the window. Then there’s availability. The construction industry is crazy right now,” said Redman, who has led numerous construction projects in the past.

John Murray, a member of Buckbee Weed Company, applied for a craft grow license, which was meant to be the center of their plans. They also applied for infuser and transportation licenses, and aimed to lead up Kishwaukee Community College’s cannabis training program. But Murphy’s Law means they got everything except the craft grow license.

“We have to pivot,” said Murray. “We’re moving forward as if we’re going to get our craft grow license. We are 99% sure that we’ll get it in the December round. But then with all the lawsuits that are emerging,” it’s hard to know what will happen, said Murray, warily.

Other groups are more concerned about how they’ll find a spot in the marketplace, since so many vertically-integrated companies already dominate Illinois.

“My big thing, and what will make or break the success of these businesses, is the brand concept. We have some of that fleshed out. We’re working on really turning the business into more of a brand. Something people will really want,” said Akele Parnell, a member of 11th Level, Inc, which won a craft grow license.

“Competing with [multi-state operators] for brand distribution, it’s really going to be a battle of the brands,” said Parnell. “Creating a brand that drives demand for your product and keeping costs as low as possible while keeping the quality customers expect.”

All of the craft grow license winners Grown In spoke to believe it will take more than six months to get their first plant in the ground, since finding construction teams will be a challenge in this environment. For those who are building a brand new building, there is a real concern in Northern Illinois that if they do not get a foundation poured before mid-December, they might have to wait until March 2022 to begin construction. In addition, many craft grow and infuser license winners have been warned by suppliers about slow overseas shipping times, a problem many Missouri cultivation licensees have encountered as well.

“A state of the art greenhouse runs on a lot of computer chips. I am hearing the delivery times on a lot of things are all messed up. For instance, take just vinyl siding. Normally a four day delivery, now it’s 12 weeks,” said Redman, whose application originally estimated a six month build time.

Asked if he thinks he’ll hit that six month estimate now, Redman was guarded.

“I think every variable would have to spin in our direction,” he said. But then: “My answers to all this may be different next week.”


Editor Mike is a co-founder and the editor of Grown In, a U.S. national cannabis industry newsletter and training company. His career has taken him from Capitol Hill to Chicago City Hall, from...