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A new industry is starting to boom, but let’s not screw it up

Tuesday, Mar 12, 2019

* 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.

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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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 12:12 pm:

    –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.–


    Exceptions would be sample rooms, like you have at all breweries.

  2. - Amalia - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 12:17 pm:

    ok, tier system makes sense. now hurry up and legalize it in the state. and get to the business of electing national leaders who will make it legal in the Federal system. one of the biggest hurdles to the business is literally doing business. who takes the money, how do you pay the employees, when you cannot handle your finances like any other business does. it’s a problem. we need national leadership which supports making it legal.

  3. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 12:17 pm:

    ==Exceptions would be sample rooms==

    That’s a new tourist opportunity. Look out Illinois wine trails, we’re gonna have Illinois marijuana trails. :)

  4. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 12:19 pm:

    == we need national leadership==

    All we need to do is get somebody booked on Fox News to discuss the issue and we’ll get presidential action asap.

  5. - Huh? - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 12:20 pm:

    Maybe the pot producer in Oglesby can start production. They are whining that the medmar industry isn’t what was promised

  6. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 12:24 pm:

    –That’s a new tourist opportunity. Look out Illinois wine trails, we’re gonna have Illinois marijuana trails. :)–

    Plenty of weed grown down in that neck of the woods already. Lots of land and solitude in Shawnee National Forest.

  7. - Rather Not Say - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 12:25 pm:

    As a recovering alcoholic (not openly) and drug addict, who is very active in Illinois policy and politics, I find this all extremely challenging. The revenue is attractive, as is the idea of not criminalizing behavior that isn’t criminal, but having lived in Colorado prior know that legalization has problems. You do see more open pot smoking, people do blow it in your face - which for a recovering addict is a trigger into relapse, kids do have more access and the industrialization of the product does lead to the culture changing to that more kids do it. Drug and alcohol recovery is most often anonymous, it is part of the program, so you will not see organized efforts on behalf of AA, however laws should be considered such as “anti-wafting” laws (don’t ‘waft’ smoke into peoples faces or suffer legal consequences) and so many things….smoke is different than drink, especially for recovering addicts.

  8. - Illinois Resident - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 12:39 pm:

    Rather Not Say - None of the states that have legalized cannabis have allowed it for outside use. That remains illegal. So if someone is doing that, they can be arrested both today and after it is legalized in our state.

  9. - Blue Dog Dem - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 12:46 pm:

    Rather. Vegas is the same way.

  10. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 12:50 pm:

    I would think kids would have the same, or even less access. Sure, adults give liquor to kids, they’ll do the same with pot. But it seems if it’s sold by someone who is going to card people, it’s going to be more difficult to buy it retail for kids.

  11. - ProgressivePatronage - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 12:59 pm:

    On the transition team? He’ll get a license. That’s how everything has played out w this progressive lot so far.

  12. - Smitty Irving - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 1:01 pm:

    Again, based on medical marijuana, keep Lou Lang away from this …

  13. - Name/Nickname/Anon - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 1:13 pm:

    There is by and large a failure to account for the loss of economic productivity legalization will bring to neighborhoods unfortunately supported in part by illicit drug trade. Essentially a whole industry of people who will be getting “floored,” or moving into higher schedule narcotic trafficking.

  14. - Unpopular - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 2:08 pm:

    The pot profiteers and the lobbyists will not be denied. Even if the health outcomes a decade or so down the road are certain to be negative.

  15. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 2:30 pm:

    Why should the location of marijuana production be determined by the State of Illinois? We don’t require cigarette, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals to be produced in Illinois. This is just another protectionist ploy.

  16. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 3:31 pm:

    I absolutely support tax revenue going to benefit communities hardest hit by the abysmal failure of marijuana prohibition, which has racist origins and disproportionately harms people of color.

  17. - Blue Dog Dem - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 8:37 pm:

    I think some of the marijuana revenue should be used to prop up the struggling horse racing industry,promote Illinois film making industry, and the balance be used to fund our capitol plan.

  18. - Platon - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 8:50 pm:

    Blue Dog Dem, what about shoring up the various state pension systems?

  19. - Platon - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 8:51 pm:

    Edibles are the way to go, Rabid. Smoking is bad for you as noted.

  20. - Blue Dog Dem - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:45 am:

    Platon. No. Just refinance with some new bonds.

  21. - Rather B. Fishin - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 2:47 pm:

    ====Why should the location of marijuana production be determined by the State of Illinois? We don’t require cigarette, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals to be produced in Illinois. This is just another protectionist ploy.====

    Not really. Bringing and anything accross state lines would trigger all sorts of federal alarm bells. Also, right now, there is a strict chain of custody from seed to gummy bear, so to speak. Bringing in product from outside Illinois would be dangerous.

  22. - Rather B. Fishin - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 2:49 pm:

    ===Beer-like three-tier distribution system====

    The sponsors do not favor a three-tier system.

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