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3 other states, numerous public pension funds aiming to profit off legal weed in Illinois

Tennessee has invested even though Republican Gov. Bill Lee opposed a move in that state to legalize even medical marijuana. The other state governments: Texas and Alaska.

Innovative Industrial Properties bought this 75,000-square-feet grow facility in downstate Barry and leases it to a Massachusetts-based marijuana grower.
Other states and government pension funds have invested in Illinois’ marijuana industry through Innovative Industrial Properties, which bought this 75,000-square-feet grow facility in downstate Barry in December and leases it to a marijuana cultivation company.
Revolution Enterprises

If Illinois’ newly legalized recreational marijuana industry proves to be as successful as expected, the taxpayers of Tennessee, Texas and Alaska all would benefit.

Each of those state governments has put money into a publicly traded investment firm, San Diego-based Innovative Industrial Properties, that’s aiming to profit when recreational marijuana in Illinois becomes legal Jan. 1. The firm owns and leases back a marijuana-growing facility in downstate Barry.

A spokesman for the Alaska Department of Revenue’s treasury division says that state “did not invest in Innovative Industrial Properties as the result of a security-specific process but as part of a strategy replicating an index of which IIPR is a constituent.”

Tennessee has invested even though Republican Gov. Bill Lee opposed a move in his state to legalize even medical marijuana, an effort that failed. A spokesman for Lee didn’t respond to questions about what the governor thinks about his state’s investment in marijuana or whether he was even aware of it.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

The other state investing through Innovative Industrial Properties is Texas, through the Texas Permanent School Fund.

Among others investing in legal weed in Illinois through the San Diego company are public pension funds for government employees in other states and Canada. Records show they are the:

  • New York State Common Retirement Fund.
  • Arizona State Retirement System.
  • California State Teachers Retirement System.
  • California Public Employees Retirement System.
  • Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio.
  • New York State Teachers Retirement System.
  • Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund.
  • State Board of Administration of Florida Retirement System.
  • Louisiana State Employees Retirement System.
  • Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Public Schools Employees Retirement System.
  • Teachers Retirement System of the State of Kentucky.
  • Municipal Employees’ Retirement System of Michigan.
  • State Teacher Retirement System of Ohio.
  • Public Sector Pension Investment Board — Canada.

No Illinois government agencies or public employee pension funds have invested, records show.


Reporter Tom Schuba talks with WCIU The Jam’s Diana Gutierrez.
Reporter Tom Schuba talks with WCIU The Jam’s Diana Gutierrez.

John Cardillo, spokesman for the New York State Teachers Retirement System, says the pension fund’s managers didn’t specifically choose to invest in Illinois’ marijuana but, rather, in funds they think will safely provide a good return. Cardillo says the public retirement fund’s holdings in Innovative Industrial Properties “are tied to passively managed index funds, which, by definition, track a broad market index.”

Steve Esack, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System, similarly says the pension fund’s “stock in Innovative Industrial Properties is tied to a passive S&P 600 index fund. It is not an actively managed stock . . . [and] not part of an active management strategy in which any employee or team of employees decides to buy or sell it.”

Esack also notes that “PSERS does not have a social investment policy or strategy that limits or precludes investments, but we do follow Pennsylvania law that bans Iranian and Sudanese investments.”

Jennifer Freeman, a spokeswoman for the New York State comptroller’s office, says the New York State Common Retirement Fund has 9,300 shares in Innovative Industrial Properties through the Russell 2000 index and 9,577 others that are held by “two active managers.”

“We aren’t aware of any legal restrictions on owning this publicly traded security,” Freeman says of the retirement fund’s investments, which total around $1.6 million.

IIP has been publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange since 2016. Its stock price has risen from $18.45 on its first day of trading to over $123 a share.

According to a June filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, the company has put more than $286 million into 22 cannabis-related properties in 11 states, including the 75,000-square-feet grow facility in Barry.

Paul Smithers, IIP’s president and CEO, is “bullish on the Illinois market.”
Paul Smithers, IIP’s president and CEO, is “bullish on the Illinois market.”
Innovative Industrial Properties

Paul Smithers, IIP’s president and chief executive officer, says the company is “bullish on the Illinois market” and would welcome new opportunities in a state he thinks “has the opportunity to be the blueprint for medical states transitioning to add adult-use programs.”

In addition to its government and public pension financial backers, IIP has gotten money from high-powered investors that include one of the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, and investment banking giant Goldman Sachs. A BlackRock spokesman says the firm’s interests in IIP have come through investments in index funds.

Innovative Industrial Properties’ financial interest in legal weed in Illinois dates to Dec. 21, when it paid $25 million to buy the cultivation center in Barry, west of Springfield, and to cover renovation costs before leasing the grow facility back to the previous owner, Massachusetts-based Ascend Wellness.

Just as other real estate investment trusts own and lease income-producing properties like malls, IIP operates as a landlord for marijuana companies.

PharmaCann, a marijuana company based in Oak Park that operates in several states, also leases three properties from IIP, none in Illinois.

The architects of Illinois’ move to legalize recreational marijuana have estimated that it will bring the state $58 million next year in taxes.