In Illinois, the cannabis business is booming — and if projections from industry leaders are correct, that’s a trend that shows no signs of slowing down as 2022 approaches.
Sales from dispensaries across the state totaled nearly $128 million last month, a 10 percent jump from a record-setting $116.4 million in May.
“Through July 2021, the cannabis industry has experienced tremendous growth in Illinois,” Melissa Wagamon, regional president Great Lakes at Chicago-based Cresco Labs, said. “We’ve been really lucky that a lot of new dispensaries have opened.”
But dispensaries aren’t the only signs of growth in the industry.
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Both Cresco Labs and Revolution Global, another Chicago-based cannabis company, either expanded or plan to expand cultivation operations as demand increases. The pandemic put a hold on some of those plans, but they remain on the radar nonetheless.
“I think it’s, it’s gotten a little bit better but supply chain issues have definitely been a consistent issue for the industry,” Revolution’s vice president for government affairs and communication Victoria Mendicino said. “It has gotten a little bit better, but it adds to the timelines for expansion, definitely.”
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Revolution Cannabis is on the verge of completing an expansion that would significantly increase the size of the company’s cultivation-centered workforce.
“Our Delevan facility is undergoing an active construction project right now,” Mendicino said. “We have an existing 75,000 square foot building where operations are housed we are kind of in the end stages of doubling that capacity. So, it’s literally will be a sister building that’s a mirror of the existing building at our 80-acre campus.”
Mendicino said the company expects the project to be finished early next year.
Similarly, some expansion projects are already complete at Cresco Labs’ cultivation center in Lincoln.
“We were able to expand the canopy space and we were able to produce more cannabis that would stock the shelves,” Wagamon said. “Basically, there’s just more supply in the state, not just from us but from other suppliers.”
Most of the focus in the industry right now is on the lottery drawings: Who will be awarded a craft dispensary license next and when will they open? Wagamon said that’s what Cresco Labs, a wholesale-focused business, credits for their growth.
“More sources getting in on it, I think, gives a better experience now,” she said. “There are more products on the shelf supply and that is, just in general, a better shopping experience so you’re seeing new shoppers come in and so I think some of the growth is coming from that.”
But Cannabis Business Association executive director Pamela Altoff said people shouldn’t expect to see individual cultivation centers and small dispensaries dot the Illinois landscape. While Altoff agreed that the industry will continue its booming trend, that won’t be done on an individual, farm or store level.
“I think, over the years, like every other industry, you’re going to see huge consolidation,” she said. ” You’re gonna see entities like Philip Morris come into cannabis, because they’re anticipating that at the federal level, ultimately it will be legalized. And they will be buying licenses from those smaller entrepreneurs. Now, probably will happen in the state of Illinois, first with those people who can gain access to licenses, but ultimately, I think that that’s the end of the industry is: You’re going to see these big companies come in and purchase many licenses because they have that available cash.”