Illinois’ top cannabis trade group pushes to block bill to help social equity licensees

A canopy that most artisanal growers in Illinois can only dream of.

Illinois’ oldest and largest cannabis trade association opposes efforts by social stock-owned craft grow license holders to increase the size of their canopy, setting up an open battle between the state’s billion-dollar multistate cannabis companies and a few dozen largely cottage-cultivation licensees — owned by people of color.

The dispute has been spurred by legislation that would increase the allowable canopy for growing craft from 5,000 square feet to 14,000, a move that many craft producer licensees say is essential because the marginal cost of operating for the smaller size is too high to attract investment. Craft cultivation licenses were issued last August, and many operators are still in the process of setting up their facilities and raising their own funds. Doubling down on their concerns is that state law dictates that craft grow licenses must be operational by July or the state can revoke their license.

Last week, the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois (CBAI), a trade association that largely represents Illinois’ operating cannabis companies, a group dominated by Chicago-based billion-dollar corporations such as PharmaCann, Cresco Labs and Verano Holdings, confirmed their plans in a board meeting to oppose SB3105, legislation that would expand the allowable canopy of craft grow facilities to 14,000 square feet.

Asked for a comment, the association did not deny its intention to oppose the bill.

“CBAI argues that in this truncated legislative session, the state should pause to properly assess where our industry is at rather than attempt to make incremental changes to an evolving industry. Our association will continue to support inclusion and diversity within the marketplace, and we stand ready to work with all stakeholders to create the strongest and fairest recreational cannabis industry in the country,” reads a written statement from the association.

“When we talk to investors, people look at 5,000 square feet and it’s impossible to make those numbers work at 5,000. At 14,000 things look a lot better. That anyone in a commercial group is against this is truly baffling,” said Eric Ice-Gibson, owner of the 1937 Group, a craft-growing licensee.

Ice-Gipson also feels double-crossed by the trade group, as he participates in their Minority Access Committee.

“We are members of the MAC committee for CBAI. We weren’t included. Not a single topic was on the agenda,” he said. “Seems like everything in Illinois is working to fail everyone due to lack of funds.”

A small trade association of craft growers, the Illinois Independent Craft Growers Association (IICGA), expressed anger over the CBAI’s opposition to the bill.

“These cannabis mega-corporations are opposing a change in the law that would allow social equity craft producers to compete. It’s all about competition and for years Big Cannabis has had no competition and they are fighting hard to make sure it stays the same,” wrote Bobby Burns, Craft Cultivation Licensee and Member of the IICGA Board of Directors.

Time is running out for the current Illinois legislative session, as well as the chances of expanding the artisanal cultivation canopy. Last week, the deadlines for the legislation to be passed by the committee – and SB3105 – have not budged.

“Anything that moves from now on, now that the deadlines have passed, will likely need leadership support to move after the deadlines, and before April 31,” said cannabis lobbyist John Daley. One possibility is that House or Senate leaders could squeeze craft canopy expansion into another bill that is already likely to pass, but with conflict within the cannabis industry. of the state, it is a decision that leaders are less likely to make.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed Green Thumb Industries as a member of CBAI. He left the association in May 2021.


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