Every boom and bust cycle begins to bloom again.

The economics of the U.S. cannabis industry circa 2023 are a real buzzkill, in many ways similar to the post dot-com Internet scene of 2001.

In both cases, an ascending yet unproven sector flooded with cash from financial speculators runs out of money seemingly overnight. Companies built on shaky foundations invariably fail while efficient operators that survive learn how to sell more products to their expanding base of customers.

In Illinois, this is happening in real time. After three years of delays due to COVID, litigation and financial retrenchment, dozens of newly licensed retailers, growers and manufacturers are seeking to purchase as much cannabis en masse from established state cultivators inclined to sell as much of their weed as possible.  

We do indeed live in groovy times.

On Friday, March 24 at the Zhou B. Art Center
in Chicago’s historic Bridgeport neighborhood, we will be convening the next generation of cannabis corporations in Illinois ready to integrate into a state market already approaching $2 billion.

Participating companies include:

  • 4Front
  • Aeriz
  • Ascend Wellness Holdings
  • Cresco Labs
  • Curaleaf
  • Green Thumb Industries
  • IESO

In addition to curated conversations between established sellers and upstart buyers, cannabis-focused regulators from the Illinois Department of Finance and Professional Regulation and the Illinois Department of Agriculture will be on hand to interact with state operators seeking clarification of what can and cannot be done within an industry still deemed illegal by federal regulators and elected officials.

Experienced industry and canna-curious investors participating as mentors in Cannabis Innovation Lab – a joint venture between business accelerator 1871, World Business Chicago and Grown In – will also be walking the hallways seeking investment opportunities in companies valued at a fraction of what they were trading for less than one year ago.

You never know who else will find their way in the room. Maybe you and your organization?

Registration closes Monday, March 20.

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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.