On Thursday, Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker will deliver a state of sinsemilla of sorts when he addresses thousands of cannabis industry stakeholders convening in Chicago for the Benzinga Conference.

While most industry observers are glued to the pot politics of Washington D.C. (SAFE Banking and Rescheduling), Pritzker’s public comments on cannabis are arguably more significant than those coming from any other elected official in the country.

Here are suggested questions for the moderator:

1) Pritzker has presidential aspirations and will likely make a run in 2028. We need to understand his views on federal reform and the creation of a national industry.
a. What are J.B. Pritzker’s views on federal cannabis reform?
b. How does he prioritize cannabis relative to other issues?
c. Can Pritzker elaborate on how he balances industry versus social considerations in
state and federal reform.

2) Like fellow presidential aspirants Colorado Governor Jared Polis and California Governor Gavin Newsome, Pritzker is a former venture capitalist who understands the return-on-investment potential from betting on companies in ascending markets. If he were still in the private sector, what parts of the industry would he be backing at this point?
a. How defensible does he believe today’s business model to be for licensed operators?
b. Are there value investments in today’s depressed sector?
c. To what degree would SAFE Banking / 280e reform / Rescheduling impact the value of cannabis enterprises?

3) Four years ago Pritzker signed into law pioneering legislation designed to give ownership of the industry to those most adversely affected by the war on drugs. The progressive intent of that program, while improving, is not yet being implemented with full fidelity.
a. What letter grade would he give the Illinois program to date?
b. If you knew then (2019) what you know now about the nuances of implementing social equity-based expansion of a state cannabis program, what would he have done differently?
c. What advice does he have to the owners of dozens of 5,000 square-foot craft grow licenses likely will never be able to raise capital to operationalize those businesses?

4) Chicago has a high concentration of multi-state operators, venture-backed digital platforms, world-class research institutions and leading corporations in the consumer-packaged goods, financial services, healthcare and logistics industries.
a. What do Chicago cannabis companies, government officials, social equity leaders and canna-curious investors and executives need to do to fortify Chicago’s existing leadership position in commercial cannabis?
b. As a private citizen in 2006, you contributed to a $10 million public-private investment fund alongside the state of Illinois to support early-stage technology companies. Can such a fund with that structure work in cannabis today?
c. Nine members of your Cannabis Regulation Oversight Office attended the kick-off meeting for The Burn ‘Em Plan, an economic initiative to fortify Chicago’s existing leadership position in commercial cannabis. What recommendations did they curate from the 120 industry stakeholders including MSO leadership teams, senior executives from publicly traded financial services firms and world-class researchers bring to your attention?

Avatar photo

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