* Tom Schuba with the Sun-Times…
Empty storefronts and shuttered restaurants line the main drag along Locust Street in Delavan, a sleepy enclave just south of Peoria.
But on the outskirts of town, business is booming — or, rather, blooming. Inside a nondescript warehouse behind a razor wire fence sit thousands of marijuana plants being grown for medical use. […]
Revolution’s 75,000-square foot grow operation cultivates up to 10,000 marijuana plants at any given time and employs 56 people, 10 of whom are natives of either Delavan or the surrounding area. Since the facility opened, the city has created a tax increment financing district to use the company’s property tax dollars to fund infrastructure and redevelopment projects, including the construction of a new public high school.
To prepare for an expected increase in demand, Revolution is shelling out more than $100 million to build an adjacent facility on a plot of land that’s seven times larger than the current cultivation’s center 10-acre site. The new building will be used to grow recreational weed, while the existing structure will continue to cultivate medical marijuana, de Souza said.
That’s great news for Delavan, but only if this gamble pays off. Some of these growers are assuming that they’ll get licenses when cannabis is legalized. And maybe they will. The CEO of that company did serve on Pritzker’s transition team, after all, and I’m told his grow center is amazing.
* But sudden “massive growth” and a trend toward vertical markets are both worth keeping an eye on…
With Illinois’ marijuana industry gearing up for massive growth as the state considers legalizing the drug for recreational use, a company based in Phoenix is paying $850 million for Chicago-based cannabis operator Verano Holdings.
The deal will give Harvest Health & Recreation the right to operate Verano’s cultivation facility and dispensaries in Illinois, as well as its operations in other states. Verano’s Chicago headquarters is expected to remain an operations hub after the acquisition.
Harvest Health, which owns dispensaries or cultivation facilities in five states and trades on the Canadian Securities Exchange, has been eyeing an entrance into Illinois for a long time, said CEO Steve White. Illinois is an attractive market because it is a heavily populated state and lawmakers are drafting a bill to legalize adult-use marijuana, he said.
“We wanted to make sure we were participating in a meaningful way before those conversations were at a crescendo,” White said. “As that conversation starts moving forward, the price of assets in Illinois goes up.” […]
Its cultivation facility in the southern Illinois city of Albion is undergoing expansion to double grow capacity, said Verano co-founder Sam Dorf. It also has dispensaries in Chicago’s Norwood Park East neighborhood and west suburban St. Charles, and has an ownership stake in a dispensary in Effingham.
I’m all for people making money on this. Illinois definitely needs a shot in the arm. But always be wary of late money jumping into a game. Big money means lots of lobbyists, and that means legislators and the governor will likely have to make extra sure those lobsters don’t try to write their own legislation to benefit their clients and not Illinois.
Also, I’d personally prefer a tiered system like beer has. Producers, distributors and retailers are all kept separate to prevent one or two producers from dominating.
* There are other considerations to stress as well, including areas hard-hit by the drug war…
In crafting legislation, lawmakers are discussing fairness in distributing marijuana tax revenue to ensure communities in need of public service improvements aren’t overlooked. “We are trying to provide some recommendations that we think would help infuse those dollars in a meaningful way back into those communities,” said Chicago Democratic Rep. Sonya Harper, a leader in the legislature’s cannabis equity work group, The Tribune reported.