The New Drug War: The theater may have shifted from the street to the boardroom but make no mistake about it – there will be casualties

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At first glance you wouldn’t think this would be a problem for anyone: Illinois has proposed a law to allow “craft growers” to increase their growing space from 5,000 square feet to 14,000. The idea is that more space will increase efficiencies & lower production costs and so these small firms will be better able to attract necessary startup capital. As one craft grower puts it: “When we talk to investors, people look at the 5,000 square feet and [say] it is impossible to make those numbers work at 5,000. At 14,000, things look a lot better.”

But the few dozen craft grow businesses in Illinois, largely-owned by people of color, have run into a problem – Big Bud. The state’s billion-dollar multi-state operator cannabis companies have gone public opposing the law. Represented by the powerful Cannabis Business Association of Illinois (CBAI), their board issued this statement:

CBAI maintains that in this truncated legislative session, the state should pause to properly assess where our industry stands rather than attempt to make incremental changes to an evolving industry. Our association will continue to support inclusion and diversity within the market, and we stand ready to work with all stakeholders to create the most robust and equitable recreational cannabis industry in the nation.

Uh-huh. And of course they “will continue to support inclusion and diversity within the market.” But that’s not the way the Illinois Independent Craft Growers Association sees it:

These mega cannabis companies are opposing a change in law that would allow social equity craft growers an opportunity to compete. This is about competition and for years Big Cannabis has had no competition and they are fighting hard to ensure that stays the same.

Worse still, the craft growers are up against the clock. Illinois law says they have to be up and running by July or risk having their licenses revoked. And since the deadline to pass the bill that increases grow space to 14,000 feet expired two week ago, their only hope is for some tricky legislature maneuvering – which is unlikely to happen. So Big Bud has won this one, sacrificing the little guy along the way, a not unfamiliar casualty in whichever drug war you look at.

One of the big Chicago operators represented by the CBAI is a company called PharmaCann. Located across seven states they describe themselves on their website as “one of the country’s largest vertically integrated cannabis companies,” and say they are “Built on trust and creating a positive impact in the world.”

Which begs the question – positive impact for whom?

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