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Illinois Adult-Use Market Set To Launch Tomorrow, With Heavy Demand Anticipated

December 31, 2019

With Illinois’ adult-use cannabis market kicking off tomorrow, key industry players are bracing for strong demand. Earlier this year, Illinois became the first (and so far only) state to legalize recreational cannabis through its state legislature. Under the new law, existing medical marijuana operators in the state are able to begin adult-use sales tomorrow, with additional licenses expected to be issued beginning in May.

“We expect sales in Illinois to eventually increase five to 10 times of what they are today as a medical-only program, so the opportunity is a game-changer,” Green Thumb Industries founder and CEO Ben Kovler tells SND. “The tidal wave of demand is real.” The state’s medicinal program grew by more than 50% to $136 million in dispensary sales last year, across 55 stores.

Green Thumb is among the companies well-positioned as the Illinois recreational market gets underway, with five stores slated to serve adult-use customers beginning tomorrow. Three of the five stores will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the first week of sales. Green Thumb is launching its adult-use operations in Illinois under its national retail brand, Rise.

Anticipating massive turnout on launch day, Green Thumb noted, “On January 1, customers can expect tents, food, beverages, music, and heat lamps to ensure comfort during potentially long waits,” adding that security personnel will be on hand for safety purposes.

Chicago-based Cresco Labs is another key player, claiming an approximately 25% share of Illinois’ medical market. Cresco gained adult-use licenses for its five existing Illinois medical dispensaries, which operate under the Sunnyside brand. Cresco is known for its Remedi, Cresco Reserve, and Mindy’s Edible product lines, which are present in dispensaries throughout the state. The company recently agreed to a $50 million sale-and-leaseback arrangement with GreenAcreage Real Estate for its Lincoln, Illinois cultivation facility. The Lincoln site is expected to be 220,000 square feet once completed.

Pharmacann, meanwhile, will have three recreational dispensaries under its Verilife brand, located in North Aurora, Ottawa, and Romeoville respectively. Pharmacann was previously slated to be acquired by fellow cannabis company MedMen in a $682 million deal, but the two companies abandoned the transaction in October, with MedMen citing a “changing macroeconomic environment” and a new strategy aimed at “optimizing our current retail assets, unlocking the further potential of our factories, and leveraging our omnichannel strategy.”

In recent days, MedMen said it has agreed to offload $74 million in non-core assets—including a cultivation and manufacturing license in Illinois—to undisclosed buyers, but added that Illinois will remain among its focus markets along with California, Nevada, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York. The company has two Illinois locations set to open for adult-use sales tomorrow, in Oak Park and Evanston respectively. —Daniel Marsteller

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