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The next big deadline for new pot businesses is just weeks away: Here’s how to apply

Officials on Tuesday announced that $500,000 in state funding will be used to help social equity candidates with their applications.

Ericka Hogan, cultivation manager at Illinois Grown Medicine, spreads medical marijuana branches to allow light penetration for proper flower development in the cultivation center’s flowering room in Elk Grove Village, Monday morning, May 6, 2019.
Ericka Hogan, cultivation manager at Illinois Grown Medicine, spreads medical marijuana branches to allow light penetration for proper flower development in the cultivation center’s flowering room in Elk Grove Village, Monday morning, May 6, 2019.

The next deadline for those who want to own their own pot business is just weeks away — and the state is offering help for social equity candidates that want to apply.

Applications for a craft grower’s license, an infuser license or a transportation license are due March 16.

The 40 licenses to operate small-scale grow centers will be awarded by July 1. Another 40 licenses will go to infusers which will manufacture processed pot products, like edibles. An unspecified number of transport licenses will allow companies to deliver marijuana on behalf of growers, dispensaries or community colleges with licensed pot training programs.

Application fees of $5,000 will be cut in half for applicants that meet social equity requirements by living in an area adversely affected by past drug policies, having a pot-related record or having a family member that meets the criteria.

“There’s a lot of interest” in the grow licenses, says Andy Seeger, a cannabis industry researcher for the Loop-based Brightfield Group.

That interest has been evidenced this month in Chicago, where two firms have applied to rezone three South Side buildings looking to open craft grow facilities, although no licenses have been awarded yet.

The licenses carry an annual $40,000 fee for craft growers, $10,000 for transporters and $5,000 for infusers.

Craft cultivators will be allowed to start with 5,000 square feet of canopy space and potentially expand to 14,000 square feet. While that pales in comparison to the 210,000 square feet the state’s 21 large-scale growers are allotted, Seeger said the maximum space for craft grow centers will rival the size of some of the current cultivation sites.

Still, Seeger said it could take up to a year and a half for the new licensees to get any product to market.

“Supply has a long way to go until it’s able to meet demand,” he noted.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced Tuesday that $500,000 in state funding is being doled out to Oakton Community College, The Trep School and Chicago NORML to provide social equity applicants with training, coaching and technical assistance to prepare applications. Training, including sessions that begin as soon as Thursday, will include advice on business planning, finances, compliance and best practices.

The DCEO is also accepting applications from all social equity applicants — including those that applied for dispensary licenses before last month’s deadline — seeking low-interest loans to fund startup and operational costs.

“The Pritzker administration is committed to ensuring this new cannabis industry is fair and equitable, with multiple points of entry for people who live in communities that were hit hardest by the failed war on drugs,” said Toi Hutchinson, Pritzker’s senior adviser for cannabis control. “By providing technical assistance and low-interest loans to social equity applicants, the administration is removing some of the hurdles.”

The half-million dollars in funding comes from the Cannabis Business Development Fund, which was started with $12 million that largely came from licensing fees for cannabis businesses.

Here are some details about upcoming events:

  • Oakton will host forum-style presentations, small group workshops and individual counseling sessions at its Skokie and Des Plaines campuses. A schedule and sign-up form can be viewed here.
  • The Trep School will host a series of statewide seminars, the first of which are scheduled to take place Thursday to Saturday at the Pullman and Lozano branches of the Chicago Public Library. Attendees can also receive one-on-one counseling and mentoring on starting a business and getting into the weed biz.
  • Chicago NORML will host online webinars on staffing and employment practices, compliance, tax planning, industry best practices and diversity planning and community engagement.

Click here for more information and an updated schedule of seminars and workshops.