The State of Illinois requires commercial cannabis growers to obtain a cultivation license from the Department of Agriculture (IDOA) to do so legally. Illinois legalized medical marijuana in 2013 when the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act was passed by the General Assembly. This law established medical cannabis facilities that could cultivate and dispense medical cannabis in the state. Adult-use cannabis became legal on January 1, 2020, following the passage of the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.
Per the adult-use cannabis legislation, licensed businesses in the state are allowed to cultivate cannabis for both recreational and medical uses. Initially, only existing medical cannabis facilities were able to apply for cultivation licenses in Illinois. These businesses could do so within 60 days of the effective date of the Act and receive their early-approval licenses within 45 days. Existing medical marijuana cultivation organizations had to pay a non-refundable permit fee of $100,000 to obtain their early approval adult-use licenses. New entrants into the cannabis market were allowed to apply for licenses to cultivate cannabis for commercial use from January 7, 2020.
The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act established three types of marijuana cultivation licenses: craft grower license, medicinal cultivation center license, and adult-use cultivation center license. There are two subtypes of the adult-use cultivation center license. Illinois issues licenses for adult-use cannabis cultivation to two groups of businesses. These are:
The Illinois medicinal cultivation center license is given only to entities interested in growing cannabis for medical dispensaries and for the consumption of patients registered in the state’s medical marijuana program. Holders of this license are allowed to grow marijuana in locked and enclosed facilities and transport their marijuana plant parts and products to dispensing organizations. Illinois allows a maximum of 21 of these licenses and all of them have been issued.
Existing medical cannabis cultivation organizations provide medical cannabis products to patients in the state. They were granted early approval for adult-use cultivation center licenses to enable them to provide cannabis products for adult users. These organizations can grow cannabis plants, produce extracts, manufacture cannabis-infused products, and sell wholesale to other licensed Illinois medical cannabis businesses in the state. The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act established a limit of 22 medical cannabis cultivation licenses available in Illinois. All available medical cannabis cultivation licenses have been awarded, and Illinois no longer issues medical cannabis cultivation licenses.
Applicants who are new to the cannabis market in Illinois must apply for the conditional adult-use cultivation center license. This does not authorize them to begin marijuana cultivation activities but gives a guaranteed spot towards earning the full adult-use cultivation center license if they meet the state’s stipulated conditions within a center period.
Craft grower licenses enable the holders to cultivate, dry, cure, and package cannabis products in the state and sell wholesale to other licensed cannabis business operations. Craft grower operations may have between 5,000 and 14,000 square feet of canopy space to cultivate plants in the flowering stage. The Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA) set a limit of 150 for the number of craft grower licenses to be issued statewide. A non-refundable application fee of $5,000 must be paid when submitting the application to the Department of Agriculture (IDOA). Successful applicants will pay a fee of $40,000 to receive their licenses. A craft grower operation can also be licensed as a processor (infuser) and a dispensary in the same facility. However, one licensee can only hold a maximum of three craft grower licenses.
The CRTA called for 40 craft grower businesses to be approved by July 1, 2021, and an additional 60 licenses by December 21, 2021. The IDOA received applications between February and April 2020, but the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the announcement of successful applicants. In August 2021, the Department released a list of successful applicants for adult-use cannabis business licenses in Illinois.
Cultivation center licenses - Cultivation center license holders can grow cannabis plants, and dry, cure, and package them. They can also process products infused with cannabis, and sell wholesale to other licensed cannabis business operations in Illinois. Adult-use cultivation centers may have up to 210,000 square feet of canopy space for the cultivation of cannabis plants. The CRTA limits the number of adult-use cultivation centers in the state to 30, and currently, there are 21 adult-use cultivation centers in operation. These were already licensed medical cannabis cultivation that received early approval. The IDOA was not authorized to license any new adult-use cannabis cultivation centers until July 1, 2021. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic had delayed the licensing of new adult-use cultivation centers, but a list of successful applicants was released in August 2021.
In Illinois, patients and designated caregivers with valid medical cannabis cards can grow up to five cannabis plants, each over five inches tall. Growers may grow plants in the patient’s house or at locations where they have the property owner’s consent. Growers must also keep their plants in a locked space and out of public view.
Adult-use cannabis can only be grown by licensed commercial growers in the state. These businesses include craft grower operations, existing medical cannabis cultivation organizations, and adult-use cultivation centers. The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act enabled medical cannabis organizations to receive early approval for adult use cultivation center licenses, enabling them to grow recreational marijuana. Medical cannabis cultivation centers were able to apply within 60 days of the effective date of the Act. They received their adult-use cultivation center licenses within 45 days of submitting their applications, and these licenses were valid.
The CRTA also makes it illegal for adults to grow cannabis for their personal use; a violation of which will result in a $200 fine. All personal-use marijuana must be legally purchased from any of the licensed dispensaries in the state.
The process of receiving a marijuana cultivation license in Illinois is dependent on the type of cultivation license. Illinois issues two types of marijuana cultivation licenses - craft grower and adult-use cultivation center.
Craft Grower License - To apply for this license, complete the Cannabis Craft Grower application and exhibit form and submit it to the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA). The application must be submitted with a non-refundable fee of $5,000 in a cashier’s check or money order made payable to the IDOA. The application must be on a USB drive and applicants must submit five copies of the USB drive. Two copies should be redacted to remove private information covered by the Freedom of Information Act and these copies should be labeled “R.” The other three copies should be left unredacted and labeled “UR.” Each USB should contain the completed application form and exhibits; exhibits should be saved as separate files and cleared labeled (A-S) and numbered. The required exhibits to be included in the application are:
A: Suitability of the Proposed Facility - 75 points
B: Suitability of Employee Training Plan - 50 points
C: Security Plan and Recordkeeping - 145 points
D: Cultivation Plan - 75 points
E: Product Safety and Labeling Plan - 95 points
F: Business Plan and Services Offered - 110 points
G: Social Equity Applicant - 200 points
H: Applicant’s Labor and Employment Practices - 20 points
I: Environmental Plan - 20 points
J: Illinois Resident Controlled or Owned - 90 points
K: Veteran Controlled and Owned - 20 points
L: Diversity Plan - 100 points
M: Bonus Section
N: Details of Ownership of Property
O: Zoning Notices
P: Organization Information and Disclosure of Financial Interests
Q: Disclosure Statement from Principal Officer or Board Member
R. Notarized Attestation
S: Fingerprint Consent Form
These exhibits (unless listed as optional) are mandatory and must be included in the application submitted to the IDOA. The USB drives should all be submitted in one sealed envelope, which must also contain a cover sheet that lists
Each USB drive should also be labeled with the applicant’s name.
Applications should be submitted in person on regular business days, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., at the Illinois Department of Agriculture:
John R. Block Building
801 East Sangamon Avenue
Springfield, IL 62702
James R. Thompson Center
100 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601
An individual or a business can possess up to two licenses and an ownership stake in a third license, provided they do not personally possess it. Approval for licenses is determined by a scoring system wherein points are assigned for the various exhibits required by the IDOA. There are 1000 points available, and successful applications must receive at least 75% (750 points). Additional bonus points are available as a tie-breaker if multiple applications receive the same score. These points (maximum of 2) may be awarded for community benefit plans, substance abuse prevention plans, and local community reports. Upon receiving the license, the business should be up and running in six months, though extensions can be granted if good cause is shown. The license is valid for one year and must be renewed annually for the holder to retain their rights. The license holder should receive a renewal notification with the relevant information 90 days before the expiration of the license.
Adult Use Cultivation Center License - A person or entity in Illinois can receive an adult-use cultivation center license only if;
The Department of Agriculture (IDOA) will also conduct an on-site inspection to verify the operation is in compliance with the Act and local laws. Applicants must pay a non-refundable license fee of $100,000 (or prorated amount) to receive their license. Applicants must also adhere to the Department’s Rules and comply with the Act’s requirements.
To obtain a Conditional Adult Use cultivation center license, applicants must pay a non-refundable application fee set by rule by the Department. This fee will be deposited into the Cannabis Regulation Fund. They must also electronically submit the detailed information in a form defined by the IDOA. This information must include:
Upon being granted a conditional adult-use cultivation center license by the IDOA, the Center can not grow, purchase, possess, or sell cannabis products. The CRTA asserts that the cultivation center can not do so until it receives an adult-use cultivation license from the Department.
Applications for cultivation licenses are usually open between February and April. Application forms will be made available online when ready. Information regarding the availability of forms, instructions for completion and submission of the forms will also be available online.
Marijuana cultivation license prices depend on the category of license. There is a non-refundable $5,000 fee to apply for a craft grower license in Illinois. The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA) reduces the application costs for applicants who qualify for social equity status to $2,500. Successful applicants must then pay $40,000 to receive their licenses ($20,000 for social equity licensees). Craft grower licenses must be renewed annually for the license holder to retain their statutory rights. The fee to renew a craft grower license in Illinois is $40,000.
The non-refundable application fee for an adult-use cannabis cultivation center license in the state is $100,000. The awarded license and the renewal fee cost the same amount. All fees for a medicinal cultivation center license are non-refundable. These include the application fee of $25,000, the awarded license fee of $200,000, and the renewal fee of $100,000.
Licensed cannabis cultivators in Illinois can hold multiple numbers of the same license type as well as other cannabis licenses. The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA) asserts that no one person or entity may own an interest in more than three cannabis business operations, directly or indirectly. As such, a person or entity can own up to three craft grower licenses, or three cultivation center licenses, or a combination of both. A licensed craft grower or cultivation center can also be licensed as an infuser and a dispensary in the same facility.