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The state’s first social equity cannabis growing facility finally opens in Rockford

Tuesday, Oct 4, 2022 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* WCIA

The Illinois Department of Agriculture held a ribbon cutting in Rockford Monday for “Star Buds,” the state’s first cannabis craft grow.

The event took place at its location on Forest View Road, just east of Alpine Road. Star Buds is the first of over 340 licenses given out in the last year to open its doors. Of the 2021 licensing cohort of which Star Buds is part, 67% of those licensees identified as non-white.

Star Buds is par of that percentage, as they are majority Black owned. A member of the IDOA is happy to finally see a grower open, especially after COVID-19.

“So, to finally get though that for an equality company here to get up and running, to be the first in the state, it’s a big deal,” said David Lakeman, division manager for cannabis and hemp at IDOA. “There have been a lot of challenges in this industry. Illinois has been a leader and Star Buds is a leader, Rockford is a leader getting this industry up and going.”

* The Tribune

Star Buds began in Colorado in 2013, and operates pot grows and dispensaries in multiple states and countries, including Jamaica. Local co-owner Ahmad Joudeh, of Palos Hills, who owned a chain of T-Mobile shops in the Chicago area, had family members at Star Buds, and formed a multiracial partnership.

Another six or so craft cannabis growers — limited to 5,000 square feet of flowering plants — are expected to open in the coming months, with another dozen getting ready behind them. That leaves another 70 craft growers that have yet to get going, along with hundreds of infusers, transporters and retail stores, as many struggle to get funding. […]
The licensing process in Illinois got delayed repeatedly in Illinois due to complications from the COVID pandemic, claims of unfairness in scoring the applications, and lawsuits.

It took Star Buds nearly two years to get a license, then another year to buy and retrofit a warehouse in an industrial park. After previous plans to locate in Aurora went nowhere, officials settled in Rockford, where city officials cooperated to make it happen.

* Northern Public Radio

“We want to make sure that those who’ve been impacted by the War on Drugs, and law enforcement efforts, the history of cannabis and marijuana, should be able to benefit from the profits that come from this new state program,” said State Senator Steve Stadelman, a Rockford Democrat.

Under the Illinois Adult-Use Cannabis Social Equity Program, businesses may receive further consideration for licensing if 51% of the ownership is made up of people who have been disproportionally impacted by the War on Drugs. The Pritzker Administration has come under criticism for the lack of social equity licenses issued in the growing cannabis industry.

Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello said Star Buds IL, a Colorado-based company, is 66% Black-owned. The state has issued 88 craft grower licenses with 48 designated as social equity applicants. David Lakeman, the department’s cannabis manager, said the Cannabis Regulation and Oversight Office determines an applicant’s demographic qualification for the social equity program.

“Expected revenues in 2023 are $445 million,” Costello said. “That’s a big number. These businesses and those that will follow create 1000s of well-paying jobs across the entire state of Illinois. They generate revenue that’s reinvested directly into impacted communities throughout the state.”

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9 Comments
  1. - halving_fun - Tuesday, Oct 4, 22 @ 12:17 pm:

    About time
    Might have been a very progressive law when written
    But in this state, what is demonstrated is the reality


  2. - H-W - Tuesday, Oct 4, 22 @ 12:22 pm:

    About time. This is good news. Now, they need to employ local African Americans in the grow operation.


  3. - Unbelievable - Tuesday, Oct 4, 22 @ 12:22 pm:

    Wow. And this was suppose to be the most equitable cannabis bill ever written though. Just a shame….or should I say sham.


  4. - Rockford’s Finest - Tuesday, Oct 4, 22 @ 12:41 pm:

    Great news’s for sure. Also, I agree with Sen. Stadelman’s statement but it’s too bad he did not vote in favor of cannabis legalization…


  5. - XonXoff - Tuesday, Oct 4, 22 @ 12:42 pm:

    Absent homegrow for healthy taxpayers it remains a litney of legalized taxation/licensing/revenue streams with token possession benefits.


  6. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Oct 4, 22 @ 1:02 pm:

    “Another six or so craft cannabis growers — limited to 5,000 square feet of flowering plants…”

    …and yet those who wish to grow their own medicine are limited to none?…C’mon Man.


  7. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Oct 4, 22 @ 1:04 pm:

    “These businesses and those that will follow create 1000s of well-paying jobs across the entire state of Illinois. They generate revenue that’s reinvested directly into impacted communities throughout the state.”

    That’s more great news. Illinois is the social equity cannabis pioneer, though the rollout has been entangled. Finally things are happening. There are too many “deserts” without dispensaries at this time, where people have to go relatively far to a store because one is not in their neighborhood.


  8. - JC from FG - Tuesday, Oct 4, 22 @ 1:43 pm:

    Maybe I’m getting up on my far-lefty high horse here, but incentivizing businesses to diversify ownership does not really combat equity. You could have one person representing that required 51% share. What does that do for the vast majority of people? Why not incentivize businesses to organize as worker co-ops or to agree to a profit share with employees (on top of wages)?


  9. - (Sigh) - Tuesday, Oct 4, 22 @ 6:53 pm:

    Did anyone else notice some of the media coverage implies there is an infuser that is operational?

    Illinois Department of Agriculture Issues Operational Permits to First Social Equity Craft Grower, Infuser Licensees
    https://www.myradiolink.com/2022/10/03/illinois-department-of-agriculture-issues-operational-permits-to-first-social-equity-craft-grower-infuser-licensees/


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