If there is a Silicon Valley for cannabis, where would you think it’s located? A few years ago most would have said the West Coast — but today for many in the industry, Chicago is increasingly top of mind. Already one of the nation’s top 10 cities for biotech and life sciences startups, Chicago is now the headquarters for many of the companies expected to make a splash when listing becomes possible on U.S. exchanges.
Currently, Chicago is home to more of the biggest publicly traded cannabis companies, measured by annual revenue or market value, than any other U.S. city — including Green Thumb Industries, Cresco Labs and Verano Holdings. It’s also the home of privately-held giant PharmaCann.
GTI, Cresco and Verano are each expected to do more than $800 million in sales this year. Each has more than 2,000 employees, and each has done very well indeed for their investors; GTI’s stock price, for example, has increased more than six fold over the past year. And with recreational cannabis warmly received in Illinois, the territory is quite friendly. Illinois’ cannabis market is the fastest-growing market in the country, racking up more than $1 billion in revenues during its first year of recreational sales, and expected to quickly reach $3-4 billion.
It’s not that Illinois has looser regulations than other states — in fact quite the contrary. It’s that Chicago is home to many family offices and other capital sources that cannabis companies had to turn to for fueling expansion. In addition, as the long-time favored headquarters city of consumer food and beverage companies, Chicago is a significant source of talent for cannabis companies eager to profit from established expertise.
Chicago’s cannabis businesses are typically led by entrepreneurs from industries where Chicago is a major player: real estate, commodities, hedge funds, law and pharmaceuticals, to name a few. This has ensured that being Chicago based is synonymous with being financially savvy, a big plus in dealing with federal regulators.
The location between both coasts also serves to spur connections between advertisers and marketers, important as consolidation begins to take hold. A number of liquor giants are already making investments in these cannabis companies, and some see a wave of mergers and acquisitions in the short term that will produce mammoth industry players.
What’s on the horizon for these Chicago companies? Cresco recently filed with the SEC for an option to raise up to $1 billion in funding over the next 25 months. Green Thumb recently announced that it received a $100 million commitment from a single investor, part of plans to generate more than $300 million in capital. And Verano recently issued an $80 million stock offering. In addition, Choice Consolidation — a Chicago special purpose acquisition company led by a co-founder of Cresco — recently raised $172 million to acquire U.S. cannabis companies.
Of course, headquartered in Chicago ourselves, Kanna Risk Management is very much a part of this community — and we look forward to bringing you more groundbreaking industry news that hails from our own backyard.