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Starting a Cannabis-Related Business

The State of Illinois controls the licensure process for cannabis businesses. The State has authority to authorize licenses for several types of cannabis businesses, ranging from cultivation centers to dispensing organizations. Information on the State’s application process for dispensaries can be found here . The City of Chicago is not directly involved in the State’s licensure process.

The process for creating cannabis businesses varies but generally requires obtaining licensure from the State and zoning compliance with the Zoning Board of Appeals. A brief summary of the requirements for each type of licensed cannabis business is provided below.

  • Function:  Dispensing organizations acquire cannabis from licensed entities for the purpose of selling or dispensing cannabis products to adults over the age of 21.

    Licensure: The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation regulates dispensary licenses and more information on the agency’s licensure process can be found here.

    Zoning: Dispensaries must be classified as a “special use” by the Zoning Board of Appeals, which has a lottery process for dispensary approval. The cannabis zoning ordinance and state law also provide dispensaries cannot be located within: (1) 500 feet of an elementary or secondary school, (2) 1,500 feet of another dispensary, or (3) parts of the central business district. On November 15, 2019, the Board held the first lottery for existing medical cannabis dispensaries only. As the amount of permissible dispensaries increases under state law and the Municipal Code, the Board may hold subsequent lotteries for the approval of additional dispensaries.

  • Function:  Craft growers are authorized to cultivate, dry, cure, and package cannabis as well as perform other necessary activities to make cannabis available. Currently, Craft growers may only contain up to 5,000 square feet of cannabis canopy space.

    Licensure:  The Illinois Department of Agriculture administers craft grower licenses and provides the license application period will be available January 7, 2020, through March 16, 2020.

    Zoning: Craft growers must be classified as a “special use” by the Zoning Board of Appeals. More information on the Board and applying for a “special use” can be found here.

  • Function:  Infusers incorporate cannabis or cannabis concentrates to produce cannabis-infused products [1]

    Licensure: The Illinois Department of Agriculture administers infuser licenses and provides the license application period will be available January 7, 2020, through March 16, 2020.

    Zoning: Infusers must be classified as a “special use” by the Zoning Board of Appeals. More information on the Board and applying for a “special use” can be found here.

  • Function:  Businesses that transport cannabis on behalf of cannabis business establishments or a licensed community college vocational program.

    Licensure: The Illinois Department of Agriculture administers transporter licenses and provides the license application period will be available January 7, 2020, through March 16, 2020.

  • Function: Cultivation centers are authorized to cultivate, process, transport (unless limited by law), and perform other necessary activities to provide cannabis products to cannabis business establishments.

    Licensure: The Illinois Department of Agriculture has processed Early Approval Adult Use Cultivation Center licenses, which apply to existing medical cultivation centers seeking authority to cultivate for recreational purposes. For more information on subsequent cultivation licenses please call the Department at 217.782.2172.

    Zoning: Cultivation centers must be classified as a “special use” by the Zoning Board of Appeals. More information on the Board and process for applying for a “special use” can be found here


 

[1] A cannabis-infused product is a product containing cannabis that is not intended to be smoked, such as food, topical formations, etc.

The State of Illinois has various resources available for those interested in starting a cannabis business:

Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity

Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation