Business Roundtable: Cannabis and Chicago | World Business Chicago




Business Roundtable: Cannabis and Chicago

Cannabis is a new ball park and Chicago is all in to become the Cannabis Capital in America. During the Cannabis Roundtable held on September 8th, 15 leaders in the cannabis industry came together to discuss their experiences as entrepreneurs and how the city of Chicago can lead and advocate for the Cannabis industry.

With new opportunities come new challenges. Following the very structured legalization of cannabis, the Mayor’s office is working to address a huge regulatory gap for the industry. The city and policy makers need the data and research to create policies; and rely on communication with industry leaders for on-the-ground understanding of the business of cannabis. The city of Chicago and the state of Illinois have separate zoning timelines and requirements for cannabis licensing. Alignment between city, state and federal laws is needed. The Mayor’s office in Chicago has the opportunity to lead and advocate for the cannabis industry with the connections facilitated by World Business Chicago.

The types of organizations within cannabis vary from businesses with one license to nonprofits and big industry names; which means the interests of each type of entity varies by nature. At the roundtable, leaders began to share intel and knowledge amongst one another: such as where to go for employee and employer education of Cannabis tech, & what innovation exists to keep competitive with other markets.

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The cannabis industry leaders had consensus across three main points of discussion:

  • Local communities and law makers alike are divided when it comes to Cannabis.  Preconceptions about the impacts of cannabis in communities exist along with an undersupply of education.
  • Cannabis entrepreneurs have a desire to be in Chicago because Chicago offers the full value chain-cultivation, laboratory, transport, dispensary (plus multiple vocational programs to ensure a growing talent pipeline).
  • And would benefit from a strong line of communication with city officials. The Mayor’s office also wants Cannabis business leaders to over communicate the needs of the industry. The Cannabis industry has a designated lead economic development director from the Mayor’s office, Hannah Jones.

This round table was strategically organized and curated to include key players in Cannabis in order to address real time concerns affecting the Cannabis industry on different levels. For instance, can Cannabis dispensaries start construction before passing ZBA or can they potentially receive a general retail privilege first? What is the possibility of Cannabis licenses having their own zoning meeting dates?  As a result of these discussions, a list of actionable next steps were suggested including a:

  1. Cannabis campus and research center to provide the opportunity to educate society about Cannabis (the Mayor’s office has been working on something similar for the past year).
  2. Coordinated effort by the Mayor’s office, IDFPR and Illinois Department of Agriculture to ensure licensees understand expectations.
  3. Legislative wish-list provided by cannabis leaders to the Mayor’s office and WBC through a point of contact, Jack Bilanzic, the Cannabis lead for the Business Development team at WBC; site selection services amongst others are also offered to the business community through WBC.
  4. Data compilation of research studies into one unified platform or program

The roundtable showed promise of the leaders within the Cannabis industry organizing to form a representative body. The group convened for the roundtable was a glimpse of what a central body advocating on behalf of the industry could look like thanks to combined efforts by WBC and the Mayor’s office.

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