US (IL): As independent growers struggle to secure financing, state-backed fund emerges

A gentle hum of movement filled a cannabis packing room on a recent Friday morning as hundreds of pounds of cannabis were prepared for the market at Helios Labs manufacturing warehouse in west suburban Broadview.

Nearly two dozen technicians sat at their stations, pre-rolling joints and slapping labels onto boxes. The next room over, a pair of workers measured out THC oil to drip into vape cartridges. They faced an empty corner where co-founders Ambrose Jackson and Alex Al-Sabah soon hoped to infuse honey and sriracha products with cannabis.

“We’re trying to focus on things that differentiate us from the rest of the pack,” said Al-Sabah, chief strategy officer of Helios’ parent company, The 1937 Group. “There’s a lot of product out there, but a lot of it is the same.”

Helios Labs is one of 87 companies in Illinois with a “craft grow” license, which is targeted toward independent cannabis cultivators who, like Jackson, have suffered from the state’s decades-long criminalization of the drug. As a teenager, Jackson said he was arrested on charges of cannabis possession with intent to sell. Now, he’s the chairman and CEO of The 1937 Group, a cannabis company that holds several social equity licenses.

More than four years after state lawmakers legalized recreational cannabis sales in what they held up as “the most equity-centric law in the nation,” only Helios Labs and nine other craft growers were actually operating as of mid-October.

Read the entire article at Illinois Answers

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