If you are thinking about applying for an Illinois cannabis license, you are in the right place. I have helped a number of businesses with the application process for adult-use cannabis in the great state of Illinois.
As many of you know by now, January 1, 2020, was the first day of adult-use cannabis retail sales in Illinois. The sales numbers were staggering, no surprise there, and Illinois is just getting started.
The stores which are open now, effective January 1, were themselves fast-tracked as they were previously and currently medical marijuana stores and much like Colorado, they flipped a switch on 35 medical outlets and began the sale of “recreational cannabis”.
I despise the term “recreational” as it pertains to legal cannabis, but that’s a story for another day. Now, here is a quick summary of the work I’ve been doing recently with three different businesses in Illinois.
If this is a path you are interested in following, there are a few things you should consider. I’ll outline them below. If after reading these considerations you are still set on venturing into this complicated industry, let’s chat.
What you need to consider before applying for an Illinois cannabis license
As it currently stands, the window for adult-use cannabis applications in Illinois is open. Many early applicants have already filed all their paperwork, so you may be a bit behind the curve. But it is not too late, as the winners won’t be released until May of this year. Before you start filling out your application, consider these points:
Do you qualify for Illinois’ cannabis social equity program?
The cannabis industry has a bit of an ugly past when it comes to how people who possessed or consumed the plant were treated. Specifically, communities of color were disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.
Because of this, the state of Illinois is doing their part to right previous wrongs with their social equity program. 20% of available points are based on social equity status! Here are the qualifications:
- 51% of owners must live or have lived in a disproportionately affected area.
- 51% of owners must have an expugnable cannabis offense
- At least 10 employees must satisfy the previous two qualifications
If you are entering this industry, it’s on you to do your part to create opportunities for families, communities, and regions that were harmed by the war on drugs. But, if you or your team were affected negatively, you may have a leg up on the competition.
Can you get financing for your dispensary?
One of the toughest parts about starting a retail cannabis storefront is finding financing. We have an entire article talking about ways to acquire banking for your cannabis business.
If you don’t have access to startup funds, or even a way to store your cash and pay your bills, you shouldn’t consider applying for an Illinois cannabis license. You can reach out to me, Rob, if this is a particular area of your business plan you are struggling with, as I went through this myself.
Do you have any experience in the cannabis or retail industry?
Illinois is going to choose applicants that have the best chance of success. So, if you have any experience in the cannabis industry, or even with a successful retail business in general, that is going to go a long ways.
If you don’t have any experience, don’t worry. I was the exact opposite of the type of person that you would think would want to open an adult-use cannabis store, yet here I am, more than 5 years later.
It won’t make or break your success, as long as you check the last box of our considerations – passion.
Do you have passion to start a cannabis business?
At the end of the day, this will be one of your most trying, difficult ventures yet. This industry is still figuring itself out, and it won’t be easy.
Your “why” for getting into this industry needs to be big enough to help you get through the tough days. Because they will come.
But if you have true passion for helping people in your community, then you should definitely apply for an Illinois cannabis license.
Now, here is some of the work I’ve done in Illinois.
CCN Lends A Helping Hand To 3 Retail Cannabis Applicants In Illinois
The deadline for new applicants in the newly formed adult-use cannabis system was January 2, 2020. I had the great fortune to work alongside three (3) clients all vying for one of 75 new licenses to be decided upon by the State of Illinois sometime in May of this year.
In two (2) of these situations, I applied as a Principal Officer. This was an honor to be sure but it came with an enormous amount of responsibility and, given our lawsuit crazy society we currently live in, an extra measure of exposure as well. It means I am applying along with the applicants/owners themselves.
I have no ownership in said companies nor will I have any fiduciary rights or responsibilities but nevertheless, the real applicants are trying to present the most appealing package possible to the State of Illinois.
By having an individual thoroughly experienced in the world of legal retail cannabis operation, they are saying to the state in effect, “we are endeavoring to do the right thing”.
If these two applicants are fortunate enough to be chosen, then contractually I have insisted on being named as Compliance Officer in the companies going forward.
This is necessary in my view to protect myself and my company, Cannabis Consulting Nationwide. If they follow my counsel and heed my advice in the never-ending effort(s) to stay compliant, then I will stay on as their Compliance Officer.
If not, I have an exit strategy to legally extricate myself from a situation I am uncomfortable with moving ahead with and being a part of.
I also was asked by the above-referenced applicants to help by reviewing and in a few cases, actually writing elements of the application, known as Exhibits.
The range and scope of information and plans the State of Illinois was inquiring about was amazing. I felt I was a tremendous help in the tone as well as the content of the required writings contained with the many exhibits, all required elements of the entire application.
In the third application, I was not asked to be a Principal Officer applicant, but I was much more involved in the writing(s) required as part of the application. I wrote in their entirety or very nearly all of the following Exhibits:
- Floor Plan
- Community Engagement
- Diversity Plan
- Operating Plan
- Business Plan
I contributed in other areas pf the application but the above were my purview and frankly, they were right in my “wheelhouse”.
Are You Thinking About Applying For A Retail Cannabis License In Your State?
If you are applying in your state to garner a license to retail cannabis, please contact a qualified consultant to help. I have been licensed and open and operating in Washington State since August 2014.
I have been successful and very proudly, infraction and violation-free. I have the boots on the ground, relevant experience many states are looking for when applying for cannabis retail licenses.
There is much value being placed on the presence of experienced cannabis operators, operators that is who have been in operating in a legal, compliance-driven regulatory framework.
There are very few individuals in the entire US who can claim the length of legal, violation-free operation in the heavily regulated retail cannabis industry that I possess and present via CCN.
So, do not be fooled, and do not rush to hire someone for the sheer sake of having experience in your corner. Hire someone who can help you in a real sense. Vet any cannabis consultant you encounter thoroughly.
My clients will attest to the fact I am a roll your sleeves up kinda guy who is the real deal and knows the ins and outs, the good and bad, the ups and downs of this still controversial and misunderstood business world that is legal cannabis.
Good luck to you all. Happy New Year!
Rob Hendrix, owner
Cannabis Central of Ellensburg
Cannabis Consulting Nationwide