Illinois Craft Growers Association Gears Up for New Entrepreneurs
Host Mark Peysakhovich speaks with three newly awarded Illinois craft cannabis licensees.
These men work together to reach other craft growers licensed in Illinois through a newly formed trade association, the Illinois Independent Craft Growers Association (IICGA).
Table of Contents
Introducing the Craft Grower Infuser License (0:10)
- Illinois offers a new license called the Craft Grower Infuser License.
- This license allows the licensee to grow and infuse cannabis products.
- Only 32 of these licenses were issued, and the video features three of the rare winners.
Introduction of David 00:26
- David is one of the three winners of the Craft Grower Infuser License.
- He is originally from Massachusetts but has lived in Illinois for 12 years.
- He is a lawyer and has been practicing for almost 10 years.
- He got interested in the cannabis industry when he wanted to do some real estate deals with high school friends.
- David wrote most of the applications for the first round of dispensary applications.
Introduction of Bobby Burns 04:13
- Bobby Burns is an alderman from Evanston.
- He was recently elected to represent the fifth ward of Evanston.
- Burns grew up in Evanston and worked on education reform, criminal justice reform, and housing and security issues.
- Burns ran a political consulting company that focused on helping progressive and insurgent candidates win elections in Chicago’s north and south shore.
How David Got into the Cannabis Industry 01:37
- David began his journey in the cannabis industry by doing real estate deals with high school friends.
- He then realized that some of the applications were suited for his legal writing skills.
- His first round of dispensary applications was successful, so he got prepared for the craft grower license.
Bobby Burns’ Mission 04:21
- Bobby Burns’ mission is to ensure that people living in areas impacted by cannabis prohibition have a place in the cannabis industry.
- Burns’ focus is on social equity considerations.
- Burns tried encouraging his friends to apply for the license, but they did not trust the process.
Bobby Burns’ Background 05:34
- Bobby Burns has been an activist and concerned resident for many years.
- He worked on issues related to housing and security, education reform, and criminal justice reform.
- Burns has two children and lives in Evanston.
- He applied for the license to try and give his friends a chance to join the cannabis industry.
Introduction to the Illinois Independent Craft Growers Association (IICGA) 10:11
- The IICGA is an association formed by Scott, the attorney, to provide support, education, and promotion to licensed holders of craft growers in Illinois.
- The organization was formed when licensing delays were perceived to benefit the incumbents in the industry.
- The association aims to provide a seat for craft growers and ensure their voices are heard in the industry.
- The IICGA is an independent organization and is not affiliated with any incumbents in the industry.
- The association has a broader scope than the Illinois Craft Cannabis Association and targets craft growers.
- The organization has recently become active again after being dormant since last September when there were no licensees to be members.
- The association’s priorities will be determined by the members who will vote for a board of directors.
The Illinois Independent Craft Growers Association Event 10:16
- The IICGA is organizing an in-person event on Wednesday, October 6th, from 6 pm to 8 pm at a bar called Dorian’s.
- The event will be an opportunity to meet and greet, elect a board of directors, and have an educational component, which is a big part of the association.
- The educational component will feature a panel discussion with dispensary operators answering questions about the industry.
Personal Backgrounds of the Speakers 06:55
- David has worked in construction and building trades for 40 years and is a true social equity advocate.
- Three people on David’s application, including himself, have had cannabis arrests to different degrees.
- Scott is an attorney with 32 years of experience in banking, real estate, and other highly regulated industries.
- Scott’s client is a large-scale commercial confection manufacturer and a majority Hispanic-owned team.
- Scott and his team have been working hard to put together their application and have spent much time working on it themselves.
- Both speakers are excited to be part of the industry with other good people in the trade association and the larger community.
Thoughts on the Licensing Process 06:55
- David applied for a license because he was committed to growing no matter what.
- David didn’t trust the government a lot but dared them not to give him the license.
- The delays in licensing were perceived to be benefiting the incumbents in the industry.
- Scott and his team missed one point on their dispensaries application but scored very well and didn’t have the veteran in their team.
- Scott and his team decided to go for the craft grow license and are excited to be awardees.
- The speakers believe everyone who applied put in blood, sweat, and tears and all earned it.
Membership and Vaccination Requirements 15:14
- The event is only open to craft grower licensees.
- Interested attendees must be vaccinated
- The organizer is taking membership applications at the event
- Membership is currently free
- The organization as a whole will decide what kind of membership to offer
Defining “Independent” 16:23
- The Illinois Independent Craft Growers Association has defined “independent” as not being affiliated with a cultivator or MSO.
- The idea was to have groups that were not legally associated with the market dominators in Illinois
- The concept of being “independent” may be subject to change
Goals of the Illinois Independent Craft Growers Association 18:56
- The board member wants to bring people together and have strength in numbers
- The organization aims to communicate with the state and make requests to the state
- The end goal is to make the craft grower part of the industry better for employees and companies
- This may include creating more jobs for people associated with craft grower licensees
- The goal is to organize around this trade association to promote interdependence among cultivators.
- The association aims to find a common interest in working together despite the limitations set by state statute.
- The association seeks partnerships with new licensees to draft legislation and make administrative changes.
- It aims to support social equity applicants to stand up their businesses and capitalize on their investment.
- The association emphasizes the importance of building a community.
Challenges in the Social Equity Loan Program 23:08
- The State needs to be more explicit in directing their support of social equity applicants.
- The program should ensure that the equity and the interest of these social equity applicants are not significantly diminished before they can stand up for their business.
- The program should guarantee loans and determine how to reduce interest rates from 8% to 3%.
Composition of the Membership 24:40
- The group is committed to diversity in its membership.
- The group comprises about 70% minorities and has two individuals who would otherwise qualify as social equity.
- The group is excited to offer employment opportunities to individuals identified as principal officers on their team.
Direct Collaboration and Partnership 20:57
- California has laws allowing more direct collaboration and partnership among cultivators than Illinois.
- In Illinois, cultivators cannot co-locate.
- However, Illinois can organize around the Illinois Independent Craft Growers Association to promote interdependence among cultivators.
Legislators and the Initial Bill 21:54
- The legislators at the state level framed the initial bill based on people who had an interest in becoming cultivators and dispensary owners.
- Now that licensees have been awarded licenses, they know the challenges and pain points.
- Licensees are actively out there looking for locations and having discussions about equity.
- The State should partner with new licensees to draft legislation and make administrative changes.
Ownership and Social Equity 26:30
- The speaker identifies as Cuban-American and fair complexioned.
- According to the speaker, all craft grower licenses in Illinois are held by social equity applicants.
- The terms of operating agreements among license holders are unknown to the public, making it unclear who controls the organizations.
- The speaker’s organization is 80% African-American owned, and the speaker is the CEO.
- The speaker’s uncle owns 51% of the organization, while the speaker owns 30%.
- The organization qualified for social equity through hiring and also has impacted family members.
- The speaker believes that the issue of social equity in the cannabis industry is about opportunity rather than how one gets there.
Encouraging Diversity and Equity in the Industry 28:23
- The speaker suggests that the newest industry association can encourage more diversity and equity in the industry.
- The speaker’s organization is majority Hispanic-owned and qualified for social equity through hiring.
- The speaker must have most employees with social equity status, including a residency in a DI zone, a cannabis arrest, or impacts from cannabis arrests in the family.
- The state’s statistic states that 65-67% of awardees were majority minority owned, and 100% were social equity.
- The speaker suggests that conversations about social equity and hiring should be had at a different time.
Selling Licenses to the Highest Bidder 32:51
- A group vocal about social equity during the waiting period for licenses announced they would sell the licenses to the highest bidder when the awards came out.
- The speaker is critical of this group for making social equity applicants into millionaires and then selling to the highest bidder.
Social Equity in the Cannabis Industry 33:10
- The group discusses the importance of promoting greater social equity in the cannabis industry.
- Concern is that people of color have been unfairly underrepresented in the industry.
- It is suggested that all company levels should prioritize equity, from the administrators to the master growers.
Importance of Recognizing Underground Growers 34:00
- The group discusses the importance of recognizing the contributions of underground growers and other community members who have sacrificed to build up the cannabis market.
- There is concern that these individuals, who have traditionally operated in the shadows, are not being given a fair place in the industry.
- The group stresses that this is not just a black and white issue, as individuals from all walks of life have contributed to the industry.
Issues with the Application Process 36:04
- The group discusses issues with the application process for cannabis licenses.
- It is noted that nowhere in the process has clarified that individuals with previous experience in the illegal market can apply.
- There is concern that the system is ass-backward and requires leadership to address these issues.
The Name of First Signature Strain 37:51
- The group discusses what to name their first signature strain.
- There is a suggestion to involve the audience in a contest to name the strain.
- One member suggests they may name the strain after someone they are not the biggest fan of.
Acknowledging Contributions of Team Members 38:43
- One group member acknowledges their team members’ contributions to the application process.
- They note that they are not a cultivator and have had excellent support from their team.
- They want to give credit where credit is due.
Importance of Recognizing Craft Growers 39:30
- One member of the group emphasizes the importance of recognizing craft growers.
- They note that many craft growers are still far from thinking about what strain they will grow.
- Much work must be done to support these individuals in building their businesses.
Naming the Business 39:46
- They are trying to create a name for their craft grower business.
- They want a name that can be used for labeling and marketing their products.
- The business is expected to be a multi-million dollar investment.
- They are considering the name “peysakovich kush,” but it may not fit on the label.
- Bobby suggests the name “mocha” because it has a good ring to it and can stimulate the brain to associate cannabis with sweets and desserts.
Practicalities of Starting a Craft Grow Business 41:10
- Starting a craft grow business involves a lot of practicalities that many people may not consider.
- The group must focus on labeling, marketing, and complying with regulations.
- They do not have the luxury of thinking about what to name their signature strain.
Illinois Independent Craft Growers Association
David Michaud, Esq.
Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer
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