Lisheng Chang / Unsplash

The famed Bangkok night market. Up on the left hand side is where they sell Illinois dispensary licenses. Credit: Lisheng Chang / Unsplash

With over a hundred Illinois cannabis licenses assigned in the last month and an equal amount still to be assigned this August, a brisk after-market for license sales is quickly developing with new dispensary license holders asking for up to $3 million and some craft grow license holders demanding as much as $10 million to turn over their licenses.

“There is a tsunami of activity happening,” said John Daley, a lobbyist and consultant for both multi-state operators and small license holders. “We’re working to make sure people maximize their value and are not taken advantage of and [if they want to stay in business] to find the right partnerships to be stood up.”

According to Illinois regulations, craft grow and infusion licenses can be sold as soon as they are assigned, but dispensary licensees need to open a store before they can sell. And, state regulators have to review and approve every transaction.

“A business with a great team, financial projections, maybe they already have an operator attached to them, someone who knows how to run a dispensary. Those will be more valuable than others,” said Edie Moore, the executive director of Chicago NORML, who is advising new license holders and is a license holder herself. 

“This is a highly regulated business, it’s not for everyone. Maybe they’re just figuring it out. Maybe they’ll figure it out next month. I’m trying to make sure they aren’t getting this knowledge from someone just looking to buy their license under them,” Moore told Grown In.

But so far, while there’s been a lot of talk, none of the lawyers, consultants, lobbyists, and operators Grown In spoke to this week know of an actual transaction that haas occurred yet, so prices floating around are still just guesses so far.

“At the end of the day the price is what somebody is willing to pay for it,” said Akele Parnell, an attorney advising new license holders.

“I think a lot of people won licenses that don’t know how to run things. Maybe they’re a little nervous. Maybe people think it’ll be a ton of work, and there’s a lot of risk to it. Maybe people are concerned about the competitiveness. And for some this is the most amount of money they’ve ever been offered,” said Parnell.

“We know by what [Cannabis advisor to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker] Toi Hutchinson has said that the people who won licenses are likely deficient somewhere. They don’t have enough capital, real estate, or have expertise,” said Sparky Rose, a marketing executive advising cannabis companies. “I’ve got two or three craft licenses, four or five infusion licenses that I’m trying to help folks plug the holes or if they want to divest, [help them] divest.”

One long-time cannabis investor who wished to remain anonymous because he’s in the midst of brokering deals thinks the prices being tossed around are too high.

“Those are insanely high numbers,” he said. Asked why, he said, “Because I do math for a living. I think a million dollars is reasonable. I’m sure there are people who will pay $3 million. But cash money, that’s a lot. Maybe if you’re a multi-state operator and you want to get in Illinois, maybe you do it.”

“There’s 40 now, and potentially 60 more [craft grow licenses]. If someone can get $4 million for a craft grow today, they should take it and run. Because that license, at 14,000 square feet, even if you can aggregate [with three others] to 42,000, to me that’s a huge amount of money for a craft grow operation.”

Ross Morreale, another long-time investor and Illinois cannabis consultant with Green Rose Advisors says the price someone is willing to pay has a lot of factors.

“I’ve talked to [multi-state operators] that don’t have an Illinois footprint and they’re looking to do stuff. Companies like Trulieve, Harvest, AYR, even Jushi holdings, they will be big players to get up to 10 licenses, just because they need to,” said Morreale.

“On the dispensary side, I think it depends on the region. I think the stores in the Chicago BLS [region] are worth more than two to three million dollars. That’s how I’d value them. I’ve heard craft grow in the three to ten million dollar range. That’s a pretty wide range,” he said.

But also, Morreale cautions that the landscape will change with each successive lottery.

“I think that if you won a license in the first lottery and if you win in the second one, now you have two licenses. If [someone] starts to acquire licenses they might try to see what they can get with related entities. Like, how to move forward from a capital standpoint,” said Morreale.


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...