Cresco Labs Launches Incubator Program for Illinois Adult-Use Market Dispensary Applicants

The program provides actionable, expert guidance to bring inclusivity to the cannabis industry.

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CHICAGO, IL., Nov. 6, 2019 -- PRESS RELEASE -- Cresco Labs Inc., one of the largest vertically integrated multistate cannabis operators in the United States, has announced the official kickoff of its community impact incubator program, part of its SEED (Social Equity and Educational Development) initiative, in Illinois. As the cannabis industry’s first comprehensive incubator program, it is designed to provide qualifying social equity applicants with the resources, knowledge and guidance needed to successfully apply for dispensary licenses in the Illinois cannabis program. Less than one week into the program’s first phase, Cresco Labs is currently engaging 35 groups of applicants – totaling 130 participants – looking to establish businesses in the Illinois cannabis space.

Phase one of Cresco’s SEED incubator program is comprised of seminar-style sessions during which accepted participants are equipped with key learnings, best practices and one-on-one guidance from some of the most knowledgeable experts in the regulated cannabis industry. The application series covers general processes including developing an application narrative, creating a dispensary business plan, security and floorplan considerations, as well as financial planning. Participants also receive one-on-one mentoring sessions in between the group meetings. Cresco Labs internal and external pro-bono experts also review and provide feedback to participants’ applications before submitted to ensure they’re best positioned for success. The company is committed to providing successful phase one participants with financial support for their dispensary application fees.

“There are communities all over the state and country that have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs,” said Charlie Bachtell, CEO and co-founder. “When the conversation shifts from talking about cannabis for helping with symptoms of epilepsy, to cannabis as a commodity that anyone over the age of 21 can legally buy, it’s imperative we shift, too. As good stewards of the industry, we want to make it as inclusive as possible and providing a pathway to opportunity is simply the right thing to do.”

Once the state awards this round of successful applications, Cresco Labs will select participants to incubate in every stage of the business process—from site selection, to regulation and compliance, as well as operational support to learn how to run their new cannabis businesses.

“One of the most important aspects of SEED is its focus on longevity,” said Barrington Rutherford, SVP of Cresco Labs and a Board Member of the Minority Cannabis Business Association.  “We want to perpetuate a long-lasting system of change that will result in greater equality and representation through both a macro and micro lens. Though we hope to have a great impact on the industry, it’s also important to us that program participants have the tools they need to own and operate a successful cannabis business that both flourishes and gives back to the community in the long term.”

In order to be an Illinois Social Equity Applicant, candidates must meet specific criteria as a resident in a Disproportionately Impacted Area or have a past arrest or have been adjudicated delinquent for any eligible expungement.

“Like many other applicants in the program, I’ve witnessed the devastating impact the war on drugs has had on our community and the people in it,” said Alice Carter, a social equity applicant from Chicago Lawn Neighborhood of Chicago. “This is an amazing opportunity to take something that caused so much devastation and despair and turn it in to something positive for areas all over our state. To me, opening my own business means more than personal success; it’s about bringing economic growth, empowerment, redevelopment and jobs back to my community. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn from and be recognized by one of the most distinguished companies in the industry—and to know they support the success of myself and my community.” 

The Community Impact Incubator is a key pillar of Cresco Labs social equity initiatives they are activating nationwide. Other focuses of the SEED initiative include collaborating with community organizations and local agencies to facilitate expungement and support entry into the cannabis industry, as well as developing systematic outreach efforts to veteran, minority- and women-owned businesses to increase the diversity of vendors supporting the cannabis industry.

For more info on Cresco Labs’ SEED Incubator Program, visit crescolabs.com/SEED.