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Chicago’s Verano sold for $850 million to Arizona cannabis chain

Chicago's Verano Holdings has agreed to be acquired by Harvest Health & Recreation. | AP file photo

Chicago cannabis company Verano Holdings has agreed to be acquired for $850 million by an Arizona-based chain as a move to legalize recreational marijuana use progresses in Illinois.

Harvest Health & Recreation will gain rights to operate Verano’s cultivation facility and dispensaries in Illinois, Nevada and Maryland, the companies said in a joint statement. The combined company — which will be one of the largest multistate cannabis operators in the country — is expected to operate 30 dispensaries, eight cultivation facilities and seven manufacturing facilities.

“The combination with Verano fits perfectly with our vision of creating the world’s most valuable cannabis company,” Harvest Executive Chairman Jason Vedadi said in the statement.

The acquisition will create a strong nationwide brand, according to Verano co-founder Sam Dorf, who noted that Harvest has a stronghold on the west coast while Verano has been more focused elsewhere.“I look at it more of a kind of strategic merger or acquisition,” Dorf said. “It’s really just Harvest and Verano coming together.”Harvest is already a leading player in the pot game, operating across six states and trading publicly on the Canadian Stock Exchange. But the Verano deal adds to the number of state-issued licenses the company has been granted to grow and sell weed. After the deal is done, Harvest will control roughly 200 cannabis facility licenses across 16 states and territories, the statement said.After starting last year, Verano consolidated several existing pot operations and quickly raised $120 million in private funding to bankroll its expansion in Illinois and beyond. Verano spokeswoman Julie Shepherd said the company’s new Near North Side headquarters will remain an important hub for Harvest’s operations east of the Mississippi River.“I think one of [Harvest’s] main interests was our Illinois footprint,” Dorf said.Verano currently has a pair of Chicago area dispensaries, an ownership stake in another pot shop in Effingham and a cultivation center in downstate Albion that’s currently doubling in size. Of the company’s roughly 350 nationwide employees, about 140 are in Illinois, Dorf said.The acquisition, which is pending a definitive agreement between both parties and approval from regulators, is expected to be finalized in the coming months.