Illinois Governor Appoints New Top Cannabis Regulator

Illinois has a new top cannabis regulator following an appointment from Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday. 

Pritzker announced that Erin A. Johnson will now serve as the state’s Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer. Johnson replaces Danielle Perry, who left the role earlier this year.

“Erin Johnson’s commitment to equity will serve Illinois well as she takes the reins as the state’s Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer,” Pritzker, a Democrat, said in a statement on Monday. “From serving as the Chief of Staff at the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice to working as Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer, Erin has the experience, education, and expertise to thrive in this role while advancing cannabis equity throughout Illinois. I can think of no better person than Erin to serve as our Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer and I wish her all the best in this new position.”

The Cannabis Regulation Oversight Office is “a part of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and is responsible for coordinating with numerous state agencies to direct the regulation and taxation of Illinois’ cannabis industry,” according to the governor’s office. 

“This work is done to ensure Illinois’ social equity goals are met through expungements, community reinvestment, and the diversification of the state’s cannabis industry,” said the press release from Pritzker’s office.

Johnson’s appointment must be confirmed by the Illinois state Senate.

“I am incredibly thankful to Governor Pritzker for trusting me to lead the administration’s cannabis regulation efforts,” Johnson said in Monday’s press release. “Together we will move Illinois forward and continue to build a cannabis industry that is driven by social equity, providing opportunities and righting generations of wrongs.”

Courtesy of Crain’s Chicago Business

Pritzker, who won re-election earlier this month, signed the bill that legalized recreational cannabis in Illinois in the summer of 2019. In the three years since, the governor has made the new adult-use marijuana program a centerpiece of his tenure.

Earlier this month, Pritzker announced that the state was earmarking $8.75 million in loans to “all conditionally-approved social equity loan applicants in order to provide immediate access to capital.”

“Equity has always been at the core of our cannabis legalization process. It’s why we expunged hundreds of thousands [of] low-level cannabis charges and instituted the Cannabis Social Equity Loan Program. But I know that if we want to create a truly equitable cannabis industry in Illinois, we must give our business owners the resources they need to grow—both figuratively and literally,” said Pritzker. “That’s why we are launching this Direct Forgivable Loan Program to provide a much-needed jumpstart for social equity applicants who’ve faced hurdles in pursuit of capital funding. This $8.75 million will help our social equity licensees open their doors for business—a major step towards creating a prosperous cannabis industry here in Illinois.”

The governor’s office explained that the program “is a first-of-its-kind program that launched in the summer of 2021 with the goal of providing low-interest loans to social equity licensees through a partnership with lending institutions,” and that participants in the program “have encountered significant delays in receiving capital through financial institutions due to the complexities of navigating a new industry that remains illegal under federal law, as well as institutions’ fiduciary, regulatory responsibilities and underwriting standards that are set independent of the program.”

“The new Direct Forgivable Loan Program fully financed by the State offers funding for all eligible program participants upon the submission of required documentation,” Pritzker’s office explained. “Because [the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity] has already received significant documentation from program participants, the additional documentation requirements for a direct forgivable loan are minimal to allow for prompt disbursal of funds. The forgivable loan has an 18-month grace period with no payments or interest accrued to provide businesses with flexibility.”

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Southern Illinois University Examining the Use of Cannabis for Ovarian Cancer

SIU researcher Dr. Dale “Buck” Buchanan, who is also a professor of physiology at the university, is a founding member of the Cannabis Science Center. “We started the Cannabis Science Center in … December 2018, when they took it off of the controlled substances lists and legalized use of industrial help nationwide,” said Buchanan in an interview with SIU’s college newspaper, The Daily Egyptian. “Since then there has been an amazing explosion.”

Buchanan explained that since the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, he has been interested in cannabis’s ability to treat cancer. “The vast majority of ovarian cancer research is focused toward extending what we call ‘progression-free survival,’” he added. “So it seems misguided to me that the focus of the research is on this incremental increase in life … so we’re really interested in prevention.”

Although rodents are the easiest subject to study, Buchanan notes that there is a similarity between chickens and ovarian cancer. “But the chicken is kind of counterintuitive. It gets the same ovarian cancer that women get. Women give live birth and chickens lay eggs, but the ovaries are remarkably similar and the thing that makes them so similar is the number of lifetime ovulations.”

In his observations, he’s found that Omega-three acids have natural anti-inflammatory proteins that help heal scar tissue which develops during ovulation, ultimately reducing cancerous tissue growth. “The consequence of this is that it has a 70% reduction in the severity of cancer and a 30% reduction in the incidence, and all we did was introduce flax into their diet,” he said. “But we know nothing about how it works, so that’s our work.”

This finding has led researchers such as Graduate Student Didas Roy to explore how the body’s endocannabinoid system, specifically Receptor 1, works. “So in the endocannabinoid system, there are cannabinoids produced inside our bodies … and they’re binding to specific receptors, one and two,” said Roy. “So two is not that much expressed in the ovary, but receptor one is there in high abundance, and it seems like the expression of those receptors increases in cancer.”

More specifically, Roy’s current focus is on Transforming Growth Factor ß (TGF-ß) protein, which is present in the ovaries, as well as the endocannabinoid system. “We know TGF-ß is also implicated in cancer, so we are trying to see how the both of them are related to each other, who is controlling whom and how they’re contributing to the ovarian cancer,” Roy added. “TGF-ß is a family of many, many receptors and ligands, so I’m trying to look at all of them.”

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 19,880 women will receive an ovarian cancer diagnosis in their lifetime [in 2022], and about 12,810 women will die from the condition. More waves of research are being conducted to further explore how cannabis can reduce suffering and even potentially save lives. In August 2019, one study examined the efficacy of CBD for treating low grade ovarian carcinoma. In September 2022, one study found that cannabis’s anti-cancer properties could help patients fight against ovarian cancer and chemotherapy resistance.

There is a growing resource of studies identifying cannabis as a beneficial treatment for many types of cancer as well. One study published in August 2022 shows how cannabis users are less likely to develop common liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which affects about 25,000 men and 11,000 women in the U.S. annually (and kills about 19,000 men and 9,000 women each year). Another study shows how cannabis can be beneficial to cancer patients by treating pain and reducing their reliance on opiates, which were responsible for more than 923,000 deaths in the U.S. as of 2020.

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Toward a More Perfect Pot Union

A GROWING INTEREST 

Following the November 2022 elections, 21 U.S. states have legalized cannabis for recreational use, many of them now entrenched with a full-blown cannabis commerce. This rapidly expanding industry is populated with thousands of productive and ambitious workers, many of whom actively seek to organize or have already created union partnerships in their workplace. 

Anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 cannabis industry employees are estimated to be unionized across America. 

UFCW UNITING WITH THE CANNABIS INDUSTRY

Some California cannabis employees are part of UFCW—United Food and Commercial Workers—the largest cannabis workers union in the country, representing over 10,000 employees nationwide. 

UFCW Local 5—which presently represents over 500 weed workers across the famed “Bay Area” of Northern California—is branching out beyond representing dispensary workers, as in June 2021, when UFCW brokered a historic first-ever agreement to unionize workers at both a California-based cannabis manufacturer, CannaCraft Manufacturing, and at a cannabis lab, Sonoma Lab Works. 

We were fortunate to speak in-depth with Jim Araby, Director of Strategic Campaigns for UFCW 5. When asked about what both the individual weed worker and the collective cannabis industry gain from unionization, Araby elaborated:

“The worker benefits are very clear, such as the difference between union and non-union wages in the companies we’ve organized in the Bay Area. DIspensary workers and delivery drivers are making $3-to-$4 more per hour than their non-union equivalents.

“Also union workers are not subjected to ‘at-will’ hiring-and-firing, instead, they have to go through an actual process for ‘just cause’ so if they get fired for some reason, there’s a procedure in place, whereas non-union workers just get fired immediately under the ‘at-will’ law.

“The other big thing is; with the way the cannabis industry is now, in terms of there being a lot of large mergers and acquisitions happening, I think workers are protected in such spaces if they organize. When the High Times (retail sector), Have a Heart and Harvest merger occurred a couple years ago (2020), we were able to protect workers and keep their jobs. 

“In terms of labor-management partnerships, we can lobby with legislators in order to create a more streamlined regulatory process so that businesses can expand and thrive, and workers can get a piece of that. And we’re focused on labor management partnerships and fighting companies that don’t recognize labor’s right to organize.”

Araby discussed the significance of cannabis unionization: “Because there’s going to be tens of thousands of people who work in the industry, and if workers don’t have rights, if they don’t have a voice, it’s going to end up the same way that every non-union industry is, where big corporations are going to control the wages and benefits of workers in this industry.

“But with the unions having a foothold as this industry grows, it at least gives workers and the communities a much more sustainable industry both in terms of what the community can expect, and ultimately, what workers can expect.

“We organized CannaCraft—a cannabis manufacturer based in Santa Rosa, CA—last year and that was pretty significant because, at the time, that company was going to unilaterally issue 20 to 30 percent pay-cuts for everybody and we were able to stop that. We were also able to use a smoother approach and bargain in good faith with the company to maintain most jobs at the plant as well as being on the pathway to create Cal OSHA—the Occupational Safety and Health Administration—standards.” 

TEAMSTERS TEAMING UP WITH WEED WORKERS

Workers at Tikun Olam, a cannabis cultivation facility based in the California city of Adelanto, gave themselves an early Christmas gift on December 22, 2021 when they voted unanimously to ratify a labor agreement with Teamsters Local 1932. This act gave Tikun the distinction of being the first unionized cannabis facility in the Inland Empire, the massive metropolitan region adjacent to coastal Southern California. The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was approved after Tikun workers voted in the majority to unionize. Beyond the contract, the company and Teamsters 1932 agreed to partner to provide training opportunities through apprenticeships with Tikun and the industry as a whole. 

Regarding this development, High Times was able to reach out to not only Abraham Gallegos, Business Agent Organizer for Teamsters Local 1932, but also Kenneth P. Ocean, Cultivation Technician at Tikun Olam, who graciously provided the workers perspective for this article. 

Mr. Ocean explained the process that led to his company joining Teamsters: “I was with the company for about six months before we voted to unionize about a year ago. It won unanimously; one hundred percent of us wanted to go this way. Being unionized gives us job security to not getting fired instantly, as well as giving us an opportunity to have a career in this business.

“The management here was having struggles and miscommunicating as far as procedures, so we felt a union could help us a lot more in every direction, including obtaining safety equipment that we needed to have on hand to do our job properly. We also get benefits from the union. Plus, the products we produce are ten times better now that we’re with the union.”

Abe Gallegos of Teamsters confirmed this: 

“Tikun Olam went for months without generating revenue. It had huge turnover with constant firings and crop failures. But since unionization this team has been producing great cannabis here in Adelanto. It’s been a complete 180 degree turnaround at that cultivation facility.

“Fortunately, here in California we have a Labor Peace Agreement (LPA) law, which means any company with ten or more employees has to sign an LPA to get their business licensing in California, which prevents them from engaging in union-busting.”  

In the legal city of Chicago, in March 2022, Windy City weed workers at not one but two cannabis retail store locations—in the Logan Square and River North neighborhoods—both voted unanimously to enter into a CBA with Teamsters Local 777. This was particularly significant because it was the first two Teamster contracts in the cannabis industry in the state of Illinois. 

Concerning this unionization, High Times was fortunate to extensively interview Jim Glimco, President of Teamsters 777, and he shared: “We negotiated a fantastic agreement at Modern Cannabis (MoCa) that covers two locations. What’s exciting about this industry is that we have momentum on our side; cannabis workers throughout Illinois are hearing about what’s happening and asking how they can sign up. The level of enthusiasm I’ve seen from workers in this industry is really exciting.”

Glimco discussed the importance of unions:

“For workers, the benefits are obvious; a union gives them better wages, better benefits, greater job security, a safer workplace, a voice on the job and so much more. For employers, there are also a number of benefits; a CBA implements a very clear set of guidelines into a workplace, which creates a certain level of operational stability for management. Union shops have lower turnover, so those employers are able to expend less resources on recruiting talent. 

“For cannabis specifically, given the ugly and tragic history of its criminalization, I think it’s important to consumers that employers demonstrate a commitment to social justice. When employers allow the process of unionization to play out fairly and bargain in good faith, it demonstrates that they’re serious about this, and their customers appreciate it.”

In June 2022, drivers and fleet maintenance workers at the Los Angeles-based cannabis distribution company Nabis Cannabis voted in the majority to enter into a CBA with Teamsters Local 630. Similar to the CBA at Tikun Olam, this particular labor agreement carries extra weight because it is a sign that unionization is moving beyond merely representing retail companies.

Matt McQuaid, Communications Project Manager with the Teamsters’ Dept. of Strategic Initiatives, told us: “Teamsters represent around 500 members working in cannabis nationwide in legal states like Illinois, California and Massachusetts.”

Further, McQuaid confirmed that it was “exciting” that the Teamsters were representing Nabis, a distribution company, adding: “That was cool because unfortunately a lot of agricultural workers don’t have collective bargaining rights in some parts of the country. But in California, they do.”

THINK TANK, UNION DANK

In September 2021, Washington D.C.-based nonprofit think tank the Economic Policy Institute issued a report entitled “Ensuring the high road in cannabis” that argued for strong unionization within the rapidly expanding legal-use industry. 

The report posits a “low road” scenario, in which employees in the cannabis industry endure the same inequities that non-union workers face in similarly aligned industries like agriculture. These detrimental practices and policies plague workers with low wages, minimal benefits, such as access to adequate health insurance. As well as the aforementioned ‘at will’ restrictions that threaten a worker with unemployment at a moment’s notice, often unfairly.  

By way of contrast, the “high road” paradigm utilizes unionization to ensure that the workers are protected from arbitrary firings, and earn a fair wage.  The report suggests cannabis workers could earn anywhere from over $2,800 to nearly $8,700 more per year working under a union contract.

UFCW’s Jim Araby weighed in on the EPI report: “Obviously I agree with their findings because fundamentally unions provide certain things to workers that they don’t have when they’re not in a union. Number one, it provides a pathway to better wages and benefits. Number two, it provides a fair process to be in place for any sort of discipline and as it relates to working conditions. And third, it provides a career pathway so that workers can advance throughout the industry, gain knowledge and skills and get paid for it as they grow, such as through an apprenticeship program.” 

UNION AVOIDANCE  

Certain law firms offer union avoidance services that actually assist companies in preventing workers from unionizing utilizing various methods including using pressure and fear tactics on workers considering unionization.  While this sub-industry may be one largely clandestine among the general public it wields great influence nonetheless in the various industries infected by their undermining of worker gains and workplace rights. 

Araby is all too aware: “Union avoidance firms are a growing presence in the cannabis industry; the big union-busting law firms like Morgan Lewis and Littler Mendelson, as well as others, see [union avoidance] as a growth industry for them. 

“We know that some cannabis companies have these law firms on retainer (fees paid in advance to law firms to utilize their services when needed).  These union-busting firms as we call them will even create fake unions in order to avoid the labor peace agreement requirements. So we know this is around, and the best way to deal with that is to make sure we engage workers and we get some enforcement on the regulatory side from the state, as well as have the federal government go after law firms that knowingly break labor laws.”

Glimco agreed union avoidance firms pose a threat to unionization in the industry: “Unfortunately, their scare tactics and lies can have an effect on people. In cannabis, though, what I have seen is that there is so much solidarity and enthusiasm from these workers. For that reason, union-busting in cannabis hasn’t been as effective as it might be at some other businesses.”

Glimco suggested how workers may oppose union avoidance firm intrusion: “The best way to combat these firms is to have a united, educated group of workers, and a strong organizing committee prepared for an anti-union campaign ahead of time. The more workers know that the anti-union propaganda is coming, the less likely it is to be effective. 

“There’s also a number of union avoidance consultants who used to be employed by a union, but then got fired for wrong-doing or incompetence. When workers find that out, they tend to doubt the credibility of the union busters.”

“UNION BUSTING IS DISGUSTING” 

In April 2022 UFCW 7 held a protest that saw union members, lead by organizer Jimena Peterson, demonstrate outside of the Denver cultivation facilities of the cannabis company Green Dragon, a weed franchise based in Florida as well as Colorado. 

The protest took issue with the union-busting tactics of Green Dragon co-owner and head cultivator Ryan Milligan after Milligan and the company fired a trio of growhouse workers for supporting efforts to unionize the workforce. 

And it’s far from mere material gains that would-be unionizers want to see changed; Green Dragon staff reported a facility full of mold and insects. The company has ignored employees’ requests for adequate ventilation. 

Araby was understandably critical: “Union busting is disgusting as it goes, and as the [Green Dragon] case proves, the company was at fault, so they had to rerun that election and the workers won their union in June 2022 and they now have a contract there.

“When employers spend resources on preventing workers from organizing and having rights at work, they’re basically spending resources against the democratic process. We at UFCW think that money should be better spent on allowing the workers to decide if they want a union or not.” 

Teamsters Glimco added: “Union busting is very prevalent. Most of the employers we organized had hired outside union busters and engaged in all sorts of dirty tricks once we filed for an election. They have fired people to scare them out of organizing, they lie to their staff. There have been many unfair labor practice charges filed against companies for bad behavior, and we’ve won almost all of them.”

UNIONS CAN ALWAYS DO MORE 

Although unions are highly advantageous to workers and companies alike, they are not perfect nor immune from criticism. Complaints include excessive dues that don’t justify the benefits as well as unions functioning as little more than another division of the corporation, intended to keep potentially more excessive worker demands under control.  

Glimco addressed such concerns: “Workers don’t pay dues until after they have ratified their first contract. Take a look at any collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated by Teamsters Local 777, in cannabis or any other industry. If you do the math, you’ll see that the wages and benefits our members receive is exponentially more than the cost of dues. Dues are a tiny fraction of the economic benefits you derive from your union membership.

“This union’s direction is guided by the rank-and-file. Shop stewards, contract ratifications, the leadership at the national level, my position as President of Local 777 as well as that of the executive board; these are all decided by direct vote of our members. Furthermore, our union is structurally a bottom-up organization. Local affiliates are autonomous and have most of the power within the Teamsters.”

As referenced by Glimco, a “rank-and-file committee” refers to a center of workplace democracy created by the actual workers of a company as opposed to a traditional union hierarchy. 

UFCW’s Jim Araby fully supports the rank-and-file system: “The core value of any union is worker democracy, so the more workers want to take ownership of the union, the better. We 110 percent support that. This is important because fundamentally, you don’t win a strong contract if workers aren’t involved. If the union believes workers are nothing more than dues-paying memes and they don’t actually deserve rights in the union, then shame on the union for doing that. UFCW fundamentally believes in workplace democracy, which means workers organizing and engaging themselves in the organizing effort.

“In every single cannabis company I’ve organized there has been a rank-and-file worker committee at the bargaining table, with me bargaining that contract.” 

When asked what workers should do regarding their complaints or issues with the union, Araby strongly suggested: “When workers feel that way, they should move up the chain to get to the union leaders so that they can understand why workers are feeling that way. The union is only as strong as the worker’s participation in it. You only get out of it what you put into it. 

“But I do think if workers feel the union is not responsive to their issues, they should show up to the union hall and demand a response from the union, because they are the union, and they invest in this organization and they deserve everything they expect from it.

“We have to keep fiercely advocating for worker’s rights in the workplace, fighting for union recognition, and bargaining for strong contracts. At the local state and federal level we have to fiercely advocate for the decriminalization of cannabis as well as the legalization of cannabis, and assert the workers’ voice to be an essential part of these state and local laws.”

The Teamsters’ Glimco reiterated his reverence for rank-and-file: “Rank-and-file committees are the backbone of our entire organization, from the shop floor all the way to international level, so we are certainly supportive of them. The workers on these committees are the driving force behind winning elections and securing collective bargaining agreements. They are the ones who make the decisions about what the priorities are when it comes to collective bargaining, what issues need to be addressed in the workplace, and what actions need to be taken during an organizing or contract campaign. 

“We even have rank-and-file members on the negotiating committees for our national contracts, some of which cover tens of thousands of members. The union is not a third party where workers hire a representative to advocate on their behalf while they sit back and take a passive role. Rank-and-file Teamster members organize and bargain on behalf of themselves, and the local union is here to facilitate that process.” 

CANNABIS UNIONS ARE THE FUTURE 

Araby was ambivalent when asked about the future of cannabis unionization: “It’s yet to be seen if the industry itself believes in the union model; I would say some companies we work with value such partnerships and others who are sitting on the sidelines or even aggressively fighting us.”

Yet he still offered optimism: “If unions don’t give up when it gets hard, workers are going to get more and more organized. We have to struggle and fight because as it becomes legal across the country, you’re going to see more and more larger companies getting involved that are not necessarily friendly to unions, and we’re already seeing this. So we have to harness the strength of the existing workers we represent and have to continue to fight for workers’ space in the center of all these legalization efforts. 

“The challenge is: how do we get skilled and trained workers into that field so the companies can retain their workers?  So we’re trying to figure something out with local community colleges to see if there are any federal or state grants we can pull down to do workforce training and development training so internal candidates can grow in that job. The future of the cannabis industry, and union workers within it, is positive, but I can’t tell you it’s going to be one hundred percent going our way. But I know as long as I’m in the union, we’re fighting for this and the union is fighting for this, and we’re moving in a positive direction.”

The Teamsters’ Matt McQuaid opined: “I definitely see unionization increasing. I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm among people in this industry for unions and you’re only going to see it grow.

“It’s really important that in these companies that are making so much money, that cannabis workers feel like this can be a career. It’s important that they can stay in this industry for their entire lives, if they want to. And when you have a union, you have wage increases and benefits and all sorts of other things that make (a lifelong career) a possibility for workers. If somebody wants to work in this industry for 23 years, they should be able to do that and the union makes that possible.” 

His fellow Teamsters brother Jim Glimco was equally infused with optimism: “I think the track record of organized labor in the cannabis industry shows that we’re doing the right things to ensure that this is a successful endeavor. Ten years ago, there were hardly any unionized cannabis workers, now there are thousands. Over the long-term, I’d like to see some of the larger players in the industry negotiate national master agreements with our union. 

“As far as benefiting the whole industry, right now, a lot of people want to stay in the cannabis business, but they can’t because they need better wages and benefits. A union fixes that problem. The more unions there are in cannabis, the more we will have the right people in the right positions.”

Glimco “absolutely” expects cannabis unionization to increase. He elaborated: “Of the 21 states where recreational cannabis is currently legal, only five of them are right-to-work (which enables companies to suppress unionization efforts).”

“However, even in the right-to-work states, the Teamsters Union is strong. It was just legalized in Maryland and Missouri, two states where we have a strong labor movement. Recreational dispensaries just started opening in New York, the state with the greatest concentration of union members in the entire country. 

“Many of these states and municipalities are very smartly requiring labor peace agreements from employers as a condition of securing licenses. This means that employers have to agree that they won’t engage in union busting if the workers seek union representation. All of this portends well for cannabis unionization.”

Tikun Olam grow tech Kenneth Ocean was asked about what advice he would give to workers at a cannabis company with less than ideal conditions and management who were seeking to unionize: “I’d tell them to try to reach out to someone with your local Teamsters and find out the information you need to unionize. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. We got involved when our union steward—and cannabis cultivation lead—Doug Herring contacted the Teamsters and filed the paperwork with them and got in touch with Abe Gallegos. Teamsters 1932 made the unionization process happen pretty quick.”

When asked the same question, Abe Gallegos built upon Ken Ocean’s advice: “This industry is filled with brand new cannabis workers, the younger generation, so it’s up to them to set their expectations for a career going forward. Talking to workers in this industry, you find a lot still don’t understand their basic rights. Some of these people work at companies that don’t pay them until the company makes sales, so you have workers who aren’t being paid timely, which isn’t legal. 

“Unionization is a process that everyone is entitled to, and they can reach out to whatever union they want to talk to, and then put together their own voices to unionize. Teamsters represent the workforce, but at the end of the day, the workers are the union. They’re the ones who will push the industry to the next level. The steps to unionize are easy; contact a local union rep, then from that point we empower the worker so they can take ownership of their workplace experience.”

We let Teamsters 777 President Jim Glimco have the last word as he looked to a potentially dazzling future: “I think as legalization spreads you’re going to see unionization expand into the entire cannabis supply chain. On the west coast, we’re already winning elections at distribution companies and growers, and I think that’s an exciting indicator of what’s on the horizon. There’s no reason we can’t live in a world where one day every hand that touches the plant, from harvest to retail, belongs to a union member.”

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First Social Equity Dispensaries Open in Illinois

A pair of newly opened recreational cannabis shops in Chicago have made history as the state of Illinois’ first two social equity marijuana dispensaries. 

CBS Chicago reports that Ivy Hall Damen, whose ownership team is 61% Black, opened its doors on Monday, while Green Rose Dispensary, whose “management team is two thirds Black and Latinx,” opened this past weekend. 

Ever since legal adult-use cannabis sales launched in Illinois at the start of 2020, “every dispensary that has opened [in the state] has been operated by ownership teams that are mostly white,” according to CBS Chicago

“We’ve been working to get a seat at the table for a while now, and we’re finally able to do that,” said Nigel Dandridge, the co-founder of Ivy Hall Damen, as quoted by CBS Chicago. “When this industry first opened up, we didn’t see anyone in our community benefiting, or even being able to participate. So it was kind of hypocritical.”

“I think it’s important that we can show you what we’re doing. We want everyone to benefit. Our staff’s been working hard, and we’re just excited to share it with everyone,” Dandridge added.

Social equity programs have become hallmarks of state-legal marijuana markets, with government officials mindful of the importance of offering economic opportunities to individuals and communities who have been disproportionately affected by pot prohibition. 

But Illinois had come under fire for its failure to provide dispensary licenses to members of the Black and Latino communities, despite the fact that the state had pledged to designate a significant number for such applicants.

In July, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration announced that it was issuing 149 conditional state licenses for adult-use cannabis retailers, all of which qualified as social equity applicants.

“Illinois is leading the way in addressing the War on Drugs as no state has before, and dispensary ownership that reflects our state’s diversity is a product of that commitment,” Pritzker said in a statement at the time. “These licenses represent a significant step toward accountability for the decades of injustice preceding cannabis legalization. Illinois will continue to deliver on the promises of putting equity at the forefront of this process.”

According to Pritzker’s office, of “the businesses selected through the lottery, 41% are majority Black-owned, 7% are majority White-owned, and 4% are majority Latino-owned, while 38% of awardees did not disclose the race of their owners.”

Last week, Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced that “$8.75 million in Direct Forgivable Loans fully financed by the State will be made available to all conditionally-approved social equity loan applicants in order to provide immediate access to capital,” and that “pending the completion of a simplified documentation process, forgivable loan amounts between $50,000-$500,000 will be released immediately.”

The Cannabis Social Equity Loan Program, according to Pritzker’s office, “is a first-of-its-kind program” that launched last year.

“Equity has always been at the core of our cannabis legalization process. It’s why we expunged hundreds of thousands low-level cannabis charges and instituted the Cannabis Social Equity Loan Program. But I know that if we want to create a truly equitable cannabis industry in Illinois, we must give our business owners the resources they need to grow—both figuratively and literally,” said Pritzker. “That’s why we are launching this Direct Forgivable Loan Program to provide a much-needed jumpstart for social equity applicants who’ve faced hurdles in pursuit of capital funding. This $8.75 million will help our social equity licensees open their doors for business—a major step towards creating a prosperous cannabis industry here in Illinois.”

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Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs Acquires Assets To Launch Largest Black-Owned Cannabis Company

Entertainment mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs announced on Friday that he is launching what is billed as the world’s largest Black-owned cannabis brand with the $185 million purchase of existing licensed marijuana operations in three states. Combs is purchasing the business operations from Cresco Labs and Columbia Care, two multistate cannabis operators that are required to divest the assets to complete a previously announced merger of the two companies.

The transaction, if approved by state and federal regulators, would add to Combs’ portfolio of enterprises, which includes ventures in entertainment, media, fashion, and alcohol. Combs, the chairman and CEO of Combs Enterprises, said that he is purchasing the assets to address the inequities of the cannabis industry, where 81% of businesses are white-owned, according to a legislative report released in Maryland this week. 

Many Black entrepreneurs have said that difficulties with financing make it difficult for all but deep-pocketed business owners to succeed in the cannabis industry. The barriers to entering the legal market follow decades of marijuana prohibition that saw Black and Brown people disproportionately arrested and jailed for cannabis-related offenses.

“It’s diabolical,” Combs told the Wall Street Journal. “How do you lock up communities of people, break down their family structure, their futures, and then legalize it and make sure that those same people don’t get a chance to benefit or resurrect their lives from it?”

“My mission has always been to create opportunities for Black entrepreneurs in industries where we’ve traditionally been denied access, and this acquisition provides the immediate scale and impact needed to create a more equitable future in cannabis,” Combs said in a statement. “Owning the entire process — from growing and manufacturing to marketing, retail, and wholesale distribution — is a historic win for the culture that will allow us to empower diverse leaders throughout the ecosystem and be bold advocates for inclusion.”

$185 Million Deal

Under the deal, a new firm controlled by Combs will acquire nine cannabis retail stores and three production facilities in New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts. In return, Combs will pay $110 million in cash and another $45 million in debt financing, plus future payments based on growth benchmarks for a total amount of up to $185 million. Combs said he will leverage the new enterprise to help increase Black participation in the cannabis industry, a goal supported by Cresco CEO Charlie Bachtell.

“For an industry in need of greater diversity of leadership and perspective, the substantial presence of a minority-owned operator in some of the most influential markets in the country being led by one of the most prolific and impactful entrepreneurs of our time is momentous…and incredibly exciting,” Bachtell said in a statement on Friday. “We’re thrilled to welcome Sean and his team to the industry.”

In March, Cresco Labs announced that it would acquire Columbia Care in a $2 billion stock transaction. The merger of the two enterprises forms one of the largest cannabis companies in the United States, with operations in 18 states with legal cannabis including early adopters Colorado and California. But regulations governing the cannabis industry and business licenses require the companies to divest some assets in states where their operations overlap, such as Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio.

Bachtell said that the deal with Combs is bigger than the transaction itself, “and it couldn’t come at a time of greater significance and momentum.”

“We’ve seen executive power exercised to address matters of cannabis injustice, we’re seeing bi-partisan support for elements of federal reform, and we’re seeing some of the largest and most influential states in the country launch cannabis programs prioritizing social responsibility– this announcement adds to that momentum,” Bachtell said. “For Cresco, the transaction is a major step towards closing the Columbia Care acquisition and our leadership position in one of the largest consumer products categories of the future.” 

Largest Black-Owned Cannabis Company

The transaction is Combs’ first venture into the cannabis industry and will create the United States’ first minority-owned and operated, vertically integrated multistate cannabis operator in a sector projected to grow to $72 billion by 2030. The vertically integrated operations in New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts will provide Combs’ new company the ability to grow and manufacture cannabis products, while wholesale and distribution assets will market those branded products to licensed dispensaries in major metropolitan areas including New York City, Boston, and Chicago. The deal also includes retail stores in all three states. 

“These assets offer the Combs’ team significant market presence, enabling them to make the most impact on the industry as a whole,” said Columbia Care CEO and Co-founder, Nicholas Vita. “It’s been clear to us that Sean has the right team to carry on the strong legacy of these Columbia Care and Cresco Labs facilities, and we can’t wait to see how he helps shape the cannabis industry going forward through his entrepreneurial leadership and innovation.”

The deal is subject to several conditions, including regulatory approval, clearance under antitrust rules and the closing of Cresco Labs’ acquisition of Columbia Care. The companies are also in the process of divesting other assets to meet regulatory requirements ahead of the closing of the deal.

The post Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs Acquires Assets To Launch Largest Black-Owned Cannabis Company appeared first on High Times.

Benzinga Chicago Cannabis Capital Conference Highlights Women, Minorities

Social equity, preferably known as equity empowerment, was the name of the game at the 15th iteration of the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference (BCCC), which took place at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago on September 13 and 14.  Adult-use cannabis consumption, possession and sales of cannabis products are legal in the State of Illinois.

Through the BCCC series, Benzinga “strives to put a spotlight on the conversation surrounding social equity via panel discussions with organizations that are combating inequality in the cannabis industry, individuals who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs, and policymakers who are leading the charge on writing legislation to undo the impacts of prohibition,” according to the company event’s website.

​Keeping in line with that mission, Benzinga offer​ed​ discounted conference tickets to owners of marijuana businesses​ that​ have received state certification for their social equity initiatives.

Women + Minorities

Additionally, Benzinga offers scholarships for women and minority-owned businesses. To that end, the company partnered with organizations, including WomenGrow, and Minorities for Medical Marijuana, to showcase their associates on Benzinga’s conference stages and in the exhibit hall.

One of those presenters included Amber Senter of Supernova Women. Despite suffering from Lupus, Senter leads the charge via her 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to empower BIWOC to become self-sufficient shareholders in the cannabis and natural plant medicine space through education, advocacy, and network building.

In the expo hall, female-represented brands were out in full force, including Chicago Norml’s Edi Moore, My Bud Vase’s Doreen Sullivan, MtoM’s Christine Wilson, Illinois Equity Staffing’s Shawnee Williams, HerHighness’ Allison Krongard and Laura Eisman, Budwell’s Sara Hussain, and CannaBellaLux’s Tiffany Woodman, among others.

Women-led brands who pitched from the stage included House of Puff’s Kristina Lopez Adduci, Black Buddah’s Roz McCarthy and 40Tons’s Loriel Alegrete.

In The Ring

Apart from the strong representation of female brands, Benzinga also welcomed more than 150 speakers from top-performing cannabis companies. Three executives of Tyson 2.0, including the legendary heavyweight boxing champion himself, landed on the roster. While retired from the sport, Mike Tyson is now a regular on the cannabis conference tour. During his press conference in the expo hall with former iconic WWE superstar Rick Flair, the latter said, “I love being relevant; and being in marijuana keeps you relevant.”

Mike Tyson, Rick Flair at Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference

Benzinga’s VP of Events, Elliot Lane, is pleased with the level of participation from all avenues.

“Chicago was our 15th iteration of the Cannabis Capital Conference and second this year,” he said. “The turnout of industry executives, investors and media was overwhelmingly positive, and the response from our attendees has been glowing.”

The Envelope Please…

Of special note were the first annual Benzinga Awards. “Finding the best of the best in cannabis is no easy feat, but someone has to do it. So, we assembled a panel of high-level judges to help us determine who are the people and organizations driving the cannabis industry forward,” said Chief Zinger Jason Raznick.

According to Benzinga, the awards celebrate new, creative, innovative and outstanding people, solutions and companies in the cannabis industry.

Benzinga Cannabis Awards

The winners of this year’s Benzinga Awards are as follows:

  • MOST IMPACTFUL CANNABIS EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: Ben Kovler, CEO, founder and chairman of Green Thumb Industries 
  • “BRETT ROPER AWARD” FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Nancy Whiteman, founder and CEO of Wana Brands
  • FRIEND OF THE INDUSTRY AWARD: Rep. David Joyce (R) of Ohio told the audience: “God bless you all for taking on this fight. I am going to keep doing my best to help you.”
  • CANNABIS ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR: Mary Bailey of the Last Prisoner Project
  • SOCIAL EQUITY AWARD: Desiree Perez of the The Parent Company
  • BEST CANNABIS LEADER UNDER 40: Luke Anderson, co-founder of Cann
  • ACHIEVEMENT IN BUILDING TRUST: Emily Paxhia, co-founder of Poseidon Investment
  • MOST EFFECTIVE CELEBRITY CANNABIS BRAND: Cookies, founded by Berner
  • CANNABIS INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION OF THE YEAR: US Cannabis Council
  • CANNABIS LIFESTYLE REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Jon Cappetta, High Times Magazine
  • CANNABIS POLICY REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Kyle Jaeger, Marijuana Moment
  • CANNABIS FINANCE REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Tim Seymour, CNBC
  • CANNABIS BUSINESS REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Jeremy Berke, Insider
  • BEST EUROPEAN CANNABIS COMPANY: TILRAY Brands
  • BEST LATIN AMERICAN CANNABIS COMPANY: Khiron Life Sciences
  • BEST CANADIAN CANNABIS COMPANY: Village Farms
  • HOTTEST CANNABIS TECHNOLOGY: Weedmaps
  • BEST CANNABIS LAW FIRM: Foley Hoag, LLP
  • BEST CANNABIS ACCOUNTING FIRM: Crowe LLP
  • BEST INVESTMENT RESEARCH: Scott Greiper, Viridian Capital
  • BEST CANNABIS INDUSTRY ANALYST: Matt Bottomley, Cannacord
  • BEST USE OF CAPITAL: Jushi Holdings
  • MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS LENDER: Pelorus Equity Group
  • MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS ETF: YOLO – AdvisorShares
  • CANNABIS INVESTORS AWARD – INSTITUTIONAL: Ricky Sandler, Eminence Capital
  • CANNABIS INVESTORS AWARD – PRIVATE EQUITY / VC: Mitch Baruchowitz, Merida Capital
  • BEST CANNABIS RETAIL EXPANSION STRATEGY: Trulieve
  • BEST CANNABIS PARTNERSHIP: TILT, which brought a true social equity partnership to the Shinnecock Indian Nation
  • BEST USE OF CAPITAL: Jushi Holdings
  • BEST M&A DEAL: Flora Growth
  • MOST ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY OPERATOR: Geomat Patented Water Recovery Systems
  • MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS BRAND: Miss Grass
  • MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS SMALL BUSINESS: House of Saka – Cannabis-infused wines from Napa Valley

The post Benzinga Chicago Cannabis Capital Conference Highlights Women, Minorities appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Benzinga Chicago Cannabis Capital Conference Wows Participants

Social equity, preferably known as equity empowerment, was the name of the game at the 15th iteration of the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference (BCCC), which took place at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago on September 13 and 14.  Adult-use cannabis consumption, possession and sales of cannabis products are legal in the State of Illinois.

Through the BCCC series, Benzinga “strives to put a spotlight on the conversation surrounding social equity via panel discussions with organizations that are combating inequality in the cannabis industry, individuals who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs, and policymakers who are leading the charge on writing legislation to undo the impacts of prohibition,” according to the company event’s website.

​Keeping in line with that mission, Benzinga offer​ed​ discounted conference tickets to owners of marijuana businesses​ that​ have received state certification for their social equity initiatives.

Women, Minorities, More

Additionally, Benzinga offers scholarships for women and minority-owned businesses. To that end, the company partnered with organizations, including WomenGrow, and Minorities for Medical Marijuana, to showcase their associates on Benzinga’s conference stages and in the exhibit hall.

One of those presenters included Amber Senter of Supernova Women. Despite suffering from Lupus, Senter leads the charge via her 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to empower BIWOC to become self-sufficient shareholders in the cannabis and natural plant medicine space through education, advocacy, and network building.

In the expo hall, female-represented brands were out in full force, including Chicago Norml’s Edi Moore, My Bud Vase’s Doreen Sullivan, MtoM’s Christine Wilson, Illinois Equity Staffing’s Shawnee Williams, HerHighness’ Allison Krongard and Laura Eisman, Budwell’s Sara Hussain, and CannaBellaLux’s Tiffany Woodman, among others.

Women-led brands who pitched from the stage included House of Puff’s Kristina Lopez Adduci, Black Buddah’s Roz McCarthy and 40Tons’s Loriel Alegrete.

Another Tyson KO

Apart from the strong representation of female brands, Benzinga also welcomed more than 150 speakers from top-performing cannabis companies. Three executives of Tyson 2.0, including the legendary heavyweight boxing champion himself, landed on the roster. While retired from the sport, Tyson is now a regular on the cannabis conference tour. During his press conference in the expo hall with former iconic WWE superstar Rick Flair, the latter said, “I love being relevant; and being in marijuana keeps you relevant.”

Benzinga’s VP of Events, Elliot Lane, is pleased with the level of participation from all avenues.

“Chicago was our 15th iteration of the Cannabis Capital Conference and second this year,” he said. “The turnout of industry executives, investors and media was overwhelmingly positive, and the response from our attendees has been glowing.”

The Envelope Please…

Of special note were the first annual Benzinga Awards. “Finding the best of the best in cannabis is no easy feat, but someone has to do it. So, we assembled a panel of high-level judges to help us determine who are the people and organizations driving the cannabis industry forward,” said Chief Zinger Jason Raznick.

According to Benzinga, the awards celebrate new, creative, innovative and outstanding people, solutions and companies in the cannabis industry.

The winners of this year’s Benzinga Awards are as follows:

  • MOST IMPACTFUL CANNABIS EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: Ben Kovler, CEO, founder and chairman of Green Thumb Industries 
  • “BRETT ROPER AWARD” FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Nancy Whiteman, founder and CEO of Wana Brands
  • FRIEND OF THE INDUSTRY AWARD: Rep. David Joyce (R) of Ohio told the audience: “God bless you all for taking on this fight. I am going to keep doing my best to help you.”
  • CANNABIS ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR: Mary Bailey of the Last Prisoner Project
  • SOCIAL EQUITY AWARD: Desiree Perez of the The Parent Company
  • BEST CANNABIS LEADER UNDER 40: Luke Anderson, co-founder of Cann
  • ACHIEVEMENT IN BUILDING TRUST: Emily Paxhia, co-founder of Poseidon Investment
  • MOST EFFECTIVE CELEBRITY CANNABIS BRAND: Cookies, founded by Berner
  • CANNABIS INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION OF THE YEAR: US Cannabis Council
  • CANNABIS LIFESTYLE REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Jon Cappetta, High Times Magazine
  • CANNABIS POLICY REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Kyle Jaeger, Marijuana Moment
  • CANNABIS FINANCE REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Tim Seymour, CNBC
  • CANNABIS BUSINESS REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Jeremy Berke, Insider
  • BEST EUROPEAN CANNABIS COMPANY: TILRAY Brands
  • BEST LATIN AMERICAN CANNABIS COMPANY: Khiron Life Sciences
  • BEST CANADIAN CANNABIS COMPANY: Village Farms
  • HOTTEST CANNABIS TECHNOLOGY: Weedmaps
  • BEST CANNABIS LAW FIRM: Foley Hoag, LLP
  • BEST CANNABIS ACCOUNTING FIRM: Crowe LLP
  • BEST INVESTMENT RESEARCH: Scott Greiper, Viridian Capital
  • BEST CANNABIS INDUSTRY ANALYST: Matt Bottomley, Cannacord
  • BEST USE OF CAPITAL: Jushi Holdings
  • MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS LENDER: Pelorus Equity Group
  • MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS ETF: YOLO – AdvisorShares
  • CANNABIS INVESTORS AWARD – INSTITUTIONAL: Ricky Sandler, Eminence Capital
  • CANNABIS INVESTORS AWARD – PRIVATE EQUITY / VC: Mitch Baruchowitz, Merida Capital
  • BEST CANNABIS RETAIL EXPANSION STRATEGY: Trulieve
  • BEST CANNABIS PARTNERSHIP: TILT, which brought a true social equity partnership to the Shinnecock Indian Nation
  • MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS SMALL BUSINESS: House of Saka – Cannabis-infused wines from Napa Valley

The post Benzinga Chicago Cannabis Capital Conference Wows Participants appeared first on Cannabis Now.

The Winners of the High Times Cannabis Cup Illinois: People’s Choice Edition 2022

The High Times Cannabis Cup Illinois: People’s Choice 2022 winners are in—and there are some seriously awesome products on that list! A Cannabis Cup award is a badge of honor that sets brands apart from the competition, and some of these folks now get to claim that honor. 

The High Times Cannabis Cup Illinois: People’s Choice Edition is aimed to identify and award the best cannabis products from across the state, while representing an assortment of 11 different categories, with many of the entries being exclusive to the Illinois cannabis market.

To make things even better, the judging this year was not done by a select few at High Times—it was done by the people in the great state of Illinois. 

Check out our winners below, and next time you’re at the dispensary, see what all the fuss is about and give them some love. 

Courtesy of High Times

Indica Flower

First Place: Rythm – Brownie Scout

Courtesy of Rythm

Second Place: Bedford Grow – I-95

Courtesy of Bedford Grow

Third Place: RevCanna – Peach Crescendo

Courtesy of RevCanna

Sativa Flower

First Place: Fig Farms – Figment

Courtesy of Fig Farms

Second Place: UPNORTH – Durban Poison

Courtesy of UPNORTH

Third Place: RevCanna – Miami Punch

Courtesy of Floracal

Hybrid Flower

First Place: RevCanna – Gorilla’d Cheese

Courtesy of RevCanna

Second Place: Aeriz – Jenny Kush

Courtesy of Aeriz

Third Place: Floracal – Vanilla Cake

Courtesy of Floracal

Pre-Rolls

First Place: Nature’s Grace and Wellness – Honey Bun Solventless Live Rosin Moon Walkers

Courtesy of Nature’s Grace and Wellness

Second Place: Terp Stix – Blueberry Cookies Infused Pre-Roll

Courtesy of Terp Stix

Third Place: Triple 7 – Tropical Runtz Pre-Roll

Courtesy of Triple 7

Concentrates and Extracts

First Place: RevCanna – Gorilla’d Cheese Rosin

Courtesy of RevCanna

Second Place: Rythm – LIVE Grapefruit Sour Diesel

Courtesy of Rythm

Third Place: Floracal – Banana Runtz Badder

illinois
Courtesy of Floracal

Vape Pens

First Place: Superflux – Margalope Live Resin Vape

illinois
Courtesy of Superflux

Second Place: Floracal – Candy Rain Cart

illinois
Courtesy of Floracal

Third Place: RevCanna – Peach Lemonade Terp Tank Cartridge

illinois
Courtesy of RevCanna

Edibles: Gummies

First Place: Mindy’s – Berries Gummies

illinois
Courtesy of Mindy’s

Second Place: Matter – Cherry Cola Gummy Bites

illinois
Courtesy of Matter

Third Place: Bedford Grow – Citrus Twist Gems

illinois
Courtesy of Bedford Grow

Edibles: Non-Gummies

First Place: Incredibles – Windy City Bites

illinois
Courtesy of Incredibles

Second Place: Nature’s Grace and Wellness – Mint Cookie Milk Chocolate Crunch Bar

illinois
Courtesy of Nature’s Grace and Wellness

Third Place: Sweet Life – Citrus Blue Caramel

illinois
Courtesy of Sweet Life

Medical Flower

First Place: Verano Reserve – Guru 0

illinois
Courtesy of Verano Reserve

Second Place: RevCanna – Buttermilk Biscuits

illinois
Courtesy of RevCanna

Third Place: Rythm – Orange Herijuana

illinois
Courtesy of Rythm

Medical Vape Pens

First Place: Beboe – Inspired Pen

illinois
Courtesy of Beboe

Second Place: Nature’s Grace and Wellness – Joos Skywalker Live Resin Disposable Pen

illinois
Courtesy of Nature’s Grace and Wellness

Third Place: Verano Reserve – Sunshine OG Live Resin Vape

illinois
Courtesy of Verano Reserve

Medical Edibles

First Place: Bedford Grow – Strawberry Lemonade Gems

Illinois
Courtesy of Bedford Grow

Second Place: Nature’s Grace and Wellness – Birthday Cake Pretzel Balls

Illinois
Courtesy of Nature’s Grace and Wellness

Third Place: Encore – Pineapple Raspberry Gummies

Illinois

A special thank you to our partners and sponsors!

Ascend Cannabis – Official Partner

Illinois

Herbal Remedies Dispensary – Official Partner

Illinois

Zen Leaf – Official Partner

Illinois

RISE – Official Partner

Illinois

Aeriz – Presenting Sponsor

Illinois

Nature’s Grace and Wellness – Silver Sponsor

Illinois

Matter – Bronze Sponsor

Illinois

nuEra – General Sponsor

Illinois

The post The Winners of the High Times Cannabis Cup Illinois: People’s Choice Edition 2022 appeared first on High Times.

New Frontier Data Projects 27.7 Million Pounds of Cannabis Cultivated in 2030

Cannabis data company New Frontier Data released “Growing Excellence: Seven Ways to Optimize Cannabis Cultivation in Newly Legal Markets” on Sept. 7, which highlights seven key issues that new cannabis producers should consider in order to achieve success.

“The continued activation of new legal markets will keep pushing existing cannabis producers to expand operations and draw new producers to the market,” said New Frontier Data CEO Gary Allen. “By basing their strategic plans around the seven key factors identified in this report, operators can capitalize on this massive market opportunity.”

In a press release, New Frontier Data projects that more than 27.7 million pounds of cannabis will be cultivated in the U.S. in 2030 (compared to the 7 million that was cultivated in 2020). These numbers are reflected in the total amount of cultivation, which includes plants grown indoor, in a greenhouse, or outdoor.

The New Frontier Data report states that a shift in legal cannabis available on the East coast, cultivation trends are also beginning to change. “As the legal cannabis industry transitions eastward from West Coast markets, several factors will impact how cannabis is grown in the new markets,” the report states. “Different climatic conditions will favor controlled environments over outdoor cultivation, given either the length and depth of winters in the North, or summer humidity in the South.”

Between 2022-2030, New Frontier Data suggests that California will remain on top of producing the most pounds of cannabis at 26.4 million, followed by Florida at 18.4 million, New York at 15.1 million, Illinois at 11.9 million, and numerous other states producing 10 million or less.

The report’s first point suggests the difference in temperature in summer and winter on the west and east coasts. As a result, most east coast states will rely on indoor grow facilities, whereas California remains the leader in both greenhouses and outdoor farms.

Among its other points of discussion, New Frontier Data mentions that automation will continue to grow, but requires experienced workers to manage them. The report also reviews the pros and cons of building or buying a cultivation facility, now that established markets offer the option to choose. Demand for specific products is also changing, with flower still in the lead, as of average data from 2021, but other products are also rising in popularity. “Value-added products (vapes, edibles, topicals, etc.) now account for half of all legal product sales, and consumer interest in these new products is poised for sustained growth as innovation drives increased product quality and diversity, enabling consumers to integrate cannabis into their lives in increasingly novel ways,” the report states. “While demand for flower is also growing, especially for pre-rolls, it is growing more slowly than demand for non-flower products.”

There is also a shift in resource efficiency, which remains important due to various factors. Energy costs from indoor lighting can cause stress on the electrical grid, but new LED technologies help lower electricity use. Likewise, watering through automated systems vs. hand watering can also help save water, in addition to focusing on water reclamation systems.

On the subject of water though, the report notes that climate change is a threat to many states, especially those that are experiencing a drought. “Cannabis producers must consider the looming implications of a changing climate on their operations,” the report describes. “Longer, hotter summers will add premiums on increased cooling requirements and higher energy demand to operate HVAC systems at higher levels for longer periods. Acute droughts—such as those currently being experienced in the Western U.S. states—will drive water shortages, increased water losses from evaporation, and higher costs of water from municipal or community sources.”

Finally, the report concludes that the industry success will be earned by those who adapt to the future. “While producers in new markets may enjoy a period of high margins and low competition, the most successful operators will be those who plan for where the market is going, not where it currently is.”

The post New Frontier Data Projects 27.7 Million Pounds of Cannabis Cultivated in 2030 appeared first on High Times.

Benzinga Cannabis Conference Kicks Off in Chicago Next Week

Thousands of cannabis entrepreneurs and activists are expected to descend upon Chicago next week for the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference.

The two-day event kicks off on September 13 at the Palmer House Hilton, where attendees will be given an opportunity to broaden their network and listen to a who’s-who of keynote speakers.

It is the 15th edition of the cannabis conference, which Benzinga, a financial media outlet, bills as the top cannabis conference in the world, and a summit where “where stars are made and real deals happen.”

The outlet says that a recent cannabis conference “was the very site where Trulieve Cannabis team met Harvest Health & Recreation, which ultimately led to a $2.1-billion acquisition.”

“At this modern day gathering, you’ll have the opportunity to meet some of the most important cannabis stars at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference where you’ll rub shoulders with executives of top-performing companies, glean priceless insights from the world’s leading cannabis investors, entrepreneurs, social equity leaders, women who have taken the industry by storm and so many more,” the outlet said in an announcement earlier this summer.

“Now in its 15th edition, the CCC is where countless companies, from large to small to startups, have met investors who supported them with tens of millions. Sit in on the numerous presentations, fireside chats and exclusive interviews. Enjoy friendly access to companies representing more than 90% of the cannabis industry’s market capitalization in one place.”

Courtesy of Benzinga

Benzinga is offering three different ticket packages for the conference. For $797.00, attendees can receive a general admission ticket, which will get them two-day admission to conference content tracks, two-day admission to the exhibit hall, as well as access to cocktail receptions.

A VIP Pass will cost you just under $1,300, but it will get you the following: “Access to Conference VIP Lounge; Access to VIP area at the Afterparty; Special Invites to Dinners & Parties; Express Check-In; VIP name badge; Reserved Seating; 2 Day Admission to conference content tracks; 2 Day Admission to the Exhibit Hall; Access to Cocktail Receptions both days; Access to Conference Networking App.”

A third option, the Investor Pass, is “for institutional and accredited investors,” and costs just under $300.

Those in attendance will have the chance to listen to several luminaries from the cannabis industry: Charlie Bachtell, CEO Cresco Labs, LLC; Kim Rivers, CEO Trulieve Cannabis Corp.; Chris Beals, CEO WeedMaps; Wendy Berger, Board Member Green Thumb Industries; Boris Jordan, Executive Chairman of the Board Curaleaf; and Michael DeGiglio, CEO Village Farms.

In addition, the conference will be highlighted by dozens of other notable speakers, such as Vic Mensa, who recently launched Chicago’s first Black-owned cannabis brand 93 Boyz; NFL Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson, the founder of Michigan-based cannabis company Primitiv; boxing legend Mike Tyson, the co-founder of the cannabis company Tyson 2.0; and former professional wrestler Ric Flair, who is involved in Tyson 2.0.

Three members of the U.S. House will also speak at the conference: Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL); Rep. Troy Carter (D-LA); and Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH).

The conference will also have a special emphasis on social equity.

“Through our Cannabis Capital Conference series, we strive to put a spotlight on the conversation surrounding social equity via panel discussions with organizations who are combating inequality in the cannabis industry, individuals who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs, and policymakers who are leading the charge on writing legislation to undo the impacts of prohibition,” Benzinga says. “Additionally, Benzinga has committed to donating a percentage of all event ticket sales to Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to cannabis criminal justice reform. We are also proud to offer discounted conference tickets to owners of marijuana businesses who have received state certification for their social equity initiatives.”

The post Benzinga Cannabis Conference Kicks Off in Chicago Next Week appeared first on High Times.