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High-powered lobbyist has stake in weed dispensary — and he’s looking to open more

Ted Brunsvold, the son of the late state Rep. Joel Brunsvold, has represented 3M Corporation, Dish Network and Allstate Insurance, according to state records. His investment in the marijuana industry hasn’t previously been reported.

Ted Brunsvold
Provided photo

Prominent Chicago-based lobbyist Ted Brunsvold quietly entered Illinois’ pot industry three years ago when he helped open a medical dispensary near Rock Island.

Now, as the state prepares to fully legalize marijuana, Brunsvold is planning to dramatically grow the business. His investment in the cannabis industry hasn’t previously been reported.

Brunsvold, the son of the late Democratic state Rep. Joel Brunsvold, partnered with a group of investors in 2016 to open Nature’s Treatment, a medical pot shop located in Milan about 10 miles from the Iowa border. Brunsvold’s childhood friend Matt Stern, an Anheuser-Busch distributor in the area, serves as the company’s co-owner.

“We’ve got a great record down there,” Brunsvold told the Chicago-Sun Times. “We work really well with the locals.”

Under the new pot law, an existing medical marijuana clinic can be converted into a dual-use store and owners can open a standalone recreational dispensary for each medical license they currently hold. Brunsvold said his company is now planning to break ground on its second dispensary location in Galesburg, which was approved earlier this month by the local city council but still needs to receive the go-ahead from state officials.

But Brunsvold doesn’t intend to stop there.

He and his partners could potentially own a total of 10 Illinois pot shops, the state’s limit for a single company. However, it’s unclear how many additional dispensaries Nature’s Treatment will eventually open and where exactly they will crop up.

“We’re working through that,” Brunsvold said while acknowledging the company is planning a major expansion.

Recently, Brunsvold has established himself as a vital player in the state’s nascent weed game after joining the board of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois, a powerful trade group that was spun out of the Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois.

Meanwhile, Brunsvold continues to lead his North Side lobbying firm, the Illinois Governmental Consulting Group, which represents Nature’s Treatment. The firm’s other recent clients include the 3M Corporation, Dish Network and Allstate Insurance, according to state records.

Brunsvold said he had “no response” to critics who say he is an example of another clouted government insider that has staked a claim in the lucrative pot industry now dominated by wealthy and white investors in Illinois. It’s part of the reason the new law sought to create more chances for entrepreneurs of color as the industry grows in the future.

Nevertheless, he said his original intention in jumping into the medical marijuana business was simply to support the local community around Rock Island.

“I think it’s a chance to help people,” Brunsvold said. “It’s a new emerging market and we wanted to see if there’s room for us.”

Nature’s Treatment is now looking to stimulate Galesburg’s economy by hiring up to 25 people to staff its prospective new store by Jan. 1, Brunsvold said.

He lauded the lawmakers who have dramatically expanded the state’s pot industry — and in effect emboldened his company’s inevitable growth — claiming that “Springfield’s done a fantastic job in making sure we do this in the right way.”