How to start a commercial grow operation in Illinois

Illinois has an active marijuana program, but it is far from finalized. It currently has a medical marijuana program, and as of 2020, it will also allow recreational use. It is no surprise that the cannabis market in Illinois shows excellent promise. Those looking to start a marijuana growing operations in Illinois will have plenty of opportunities.

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Illinois enacted The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act (HB 1) in 2013. It was intended to be a temporary program to service qualifying patients in the state. It specified 35 qualifying conditions, but excluded chronic pain, one of the main reasons people use medical cannabis.

When was marijuana made legal
When was marijuana made legal

Patients could have up to 5 ounces of cannabis every month among and could purchase it from one of the 60 dispensing organizations, supplied by 22 cultivation centers.

In June 2019, Illinois passed the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act which will allow residents to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana beginning January 1, 2020.

How many marijuana businesses in the state

The current law allows up to 60 cannabis business, and 56 licenses have been issued. By the end of 2015, eight were in operation. Currently, 55 are operating. The Illinois Department of Agriculture has authorized cultivation centers to begin operating in 17 of the 22 districts.

New Opportunities

There aren’t many marijuana businesses at the moment, but Illinois’s legalization of recreational marijuana will create new opportunities. By 2020, the existing number of dispensaries could double to 100. Until additional grow operations are licensed, existing legal cultivators will be responsible for fulfilling the demand.However, those looking to join the industry will be able to apply for licenses beginning in January 2020.

Additional licenses will be granted starting in May 2020 for dispensaries and July 2020 for grow operations. The state is planning to award licenses each year until there are enough businesses to meet consumer demand.Curious about the marijuana industry in Jamaica? Learn how Rastafarians relate to the culture of weed in our free ebook.

Cannabis and money
Cannabis Market

How much money is in the Illinois cannabis market

There is huge potential in the state of Illinois. Medical marijuana sales in Illinois already enjoys a large patient base that consumed around 23lbs. per year. In 2020, as more adults consume marijuana, the amount sold is expected to increase substantially, leading to substantial money for the industry.

Supporters of the recently passed bill forecast nearly $500 million in tax revenue once legalized, while business analysts expect to see $2.5 billion in sales revenue.

Owner & license requirements for marijuana growing operations

There are two available licenses in the state: dispensary and growing operation. Applicants are not currently being accepted as the state is preparing for the upcoming 2020 recreational licensing period.

Current cultivators are allowed to create medical marijuana/cannabis edibles and extractions and other marijuana-infused products. Requirements for prospective growing operation owners are strict: Applicants must undergo fingerprint background check, disclose any past bankruptcies, student loan defaults or child support or alimony, and they must also release complete tax returns for previous years.

A single entity can own a maximum of 3 cultivation permits. An individual is prohibited from being an owner, partner, officer, director, shareholder, or member of more than 3 permitted cultivation centers.

Financial requirements

Marijuana Business Financial Requirements
Financial Requirements

Opening a recreational marijuana business in Illinois is not expected to be cheap. Currently, it is one of the most expensive states for ganjapreneurs with rather strict entry barriers. Prior to legalization, the costs associated with the application for a marijuana growing operation facility in Illinois were:

Non-refundable application fee for a cultivation permit: $25,000
Once issued a permit, $200,000 permit fee for the first year
Annual permit renewal: $100,000
Applicants were required to demonstrate $500,000 in liquid assets and a $2,000,000 bond to the Department of Agriculture

The new law is expected to maintain its rather strict barriers to entry, however, certain groups may have a better chance than before. As part of their social equity program, the state is actively working to include minorities and those previously impacted by marijuana prohibition.


How much time will you need to open a growing operation in Illinois? Well, first of all, you will have to wait until summer 2020. Outside of that, it is a good idea to set aside at least a year’s time to get your cannabis growing operation up and running. You will need all of that time to get finances in order, acquire the necessary licenses, locate suppliers and hire the perfect employees.

Download the Free Harvesting Guide to learn more about when and how to harvest your Marijuana plants.

Faq about marijuana growing operations in Illinois

Do you need a license to start marijuana growing business in Illinois?

Yes, There are two available licenses in the state: dispensary and growing operation.

What is the application fee for a marijuana cultivation permit in Illinois?

The non-refundable application fee for a cultivation permit is $25,000.

How much time will it take to open a marijuana growing operation in Illinois?

Our recommendation is to set aside at least a year’s time to get your cannabis growing operation up and running.

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7 comments on “How to start a commercial grow operation in Illinois”

  1. Those fees are deplorable for craft growers. So much for helping the little guy, Illinois has made it OUT OF REACH with 25K app fee and 200K license fee….

  2. I’m currently a marijuana grower. Specialized in organic soil in lighting Currently using techniques from the Netherlands. I was recently approached. But some people To start growing cannabis for them. Do I need to certify myself in our others interested in my services? Press start up for new cannabis Farms. And growing in Earth.

  3. It seems the state of Illinois is cherry picking who can grow pot and charging outrageous registration prices to grow and cultivate weed. Again the idiot Illinois governor is breaking the law not allowing any Illinois citizen a reasonable chance to start a cultivating business. Only the corrupt officials are handing over licensing and registration to friends and relatives who are in their political loop. Pure double standard. No state bids were advertised to all citizens who want to participate in this business. Very corrupt officials making it impossible to participate do to absorbent lisence and registration fees. Only the well to do are in cahoots with corrupt Illinois officials. Very unfair.

  4. this article was written the day Illinois legalized, and there is zero mention of it or the new laws. Ridiculous and careless.

    • it did….. Did you read the part where it said “In June 2019, Illinois passed the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act which will allow residents to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana beginning January 1, 2020.”?