When adult use cannabis was legalized in Illinois during 2019, to be effective January 1, 2020, an aggressive timeline was established for licensing cannabis growers and dispensaries. While the statute allowed the state to issue 40 Illinois cannabis craft grower licenses by July 1, 2020, and another 60 licenses after December 21, 2021, that process has been delayed possibly due to COVID-19. Illinois is not licensing additional cultivation centers anytime soon and many in the industry are predicting cannabis shortages to come.

Illinois Cannabis Craft Grower License Application

The Department has given early approval to 21 licensed adult-use cultivation centers and continues to evaluate applications for craft grower licenses based on a scoring system. You can view more information about the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (“CRTA”) by the Illinois Department of Agriculture including a list of approved cultivation centers, downloadable application and exhibit forms, rules, and regulations.

The initial 40 craft grower licenses allowed in the first wave limit the grower to 5000 ft. for flowering plants; this does not include plants in the vegetative state, or space for aisles and walkways. The statute allows the Department of Agriculture to authorize an increase or decrease of cultivation space for plants in the flowering stage in increments of 3000 ft. with a maximum space allowed of 14,000 ft. for cannabis plants in the flowering stage. Due to the predicted shortage to meet the recreational demand, it is anticipated that this increase will go through in time, so it is recommended to plan your space accordingly and have room to expand beyond the current 5000 ft. limit.

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The Department was preparing to notify craft grower applicants with top scores of their eligibility to receive a license by December 21, 2021, until the court ordered that the Department was not permitted to approve additional craft grower licenses pending further order of the court on November 22, 2021. The Illinois Department of Agriculture is committed to ensuring that all applications for craft grower licenses are issued in a fair and equitable manner.

Illinois Craft Grower License Scoring System

The application for an Illinois craft grower license is based on a scoring system, with various points assigned for providing a detailed plan to address the following categories:

  • Suitability of the proposed facility 75 pts
  • Suitability of employee training plan 50 pts
  • Security and record keeping plans 145 pts
  • Cultivation plan 75 pts
  • Product safety and labeling plan 95 pts
  • Business plan and description of services to be offered 110 pts
  • Social equity applicant (if applicable) 200 pts
  • Labor and employment practices 20 pts
  • Environmental plan 20 pts
  • Illinois resident for 5 + years 90 pts
  • Company owned 51% by a veteran 20 pts
  • Diversity plan 100 pts

The Department considers a top scoring applicant to receive 75% or more of the 1000 points total available. Bonus points are available for applications which include a substance abuse prevention plan, community benefit plan and a local community report. Applicants that qualify as a social equity applicant and have been an Illinois resident for five years or more have an advantage as the state’s goal is for Illinois cannabis businesses to be operated and owned by Illinois residents, particularly those that have been impacted disproportionately by previous cannabis reform.

Once approved, applicants must be prepared to pay the $40,000 license fee and must be operational within six months. Craft growers must renew their license annually and they should be submitted at least 45 days in advance for renewal to avoid risking losing your license.

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