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Rockford is home to the state's first operating social equity cannabis growing facility

Rock Bud IL owners and state and local officials take part in a ribbon cutting for the first operating cannabis social equitable licensed facility.
Maria Gardner Lara
Star Buds IL owners and state and local officials take part in a ribbon cutting for the first operating cannabis social equity licensed facility on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022 in Rockford, IL.

Monday marked the launch of Star Buds IL, the state’s first cannabis social equitable licensed craft grower in operation. State and local officials gathered alongside the business owners for a ribbon cutting of the facility in Rockford.

“We want to make sure that those who've been impacted by the War on Drugs, and law enforcement efforts, the history of cannabis and marijuana, should be able to benefit from the profits that come from this new state program,” said State Senator Steve Stadelman, a Rockford Democrat.

Under the Illinois Adult-Use Cannabis Social Equity Program, businesses may receive further consideration for licensing if 51% of the ownership is made up of people who have been disproportionally impacted by the War on Drugs. The Pritzker Administration has come under criticism for the lack of social equity licenses issued in the growing cannabis industry.

Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello said Star Buds IL, a Colorado-based company, is 66% Black-owned. The state has issued 88 craft grower licenses with 48 designated as social equity applicants. David Lakeman, the department’s cannabis manager, said the Cannabis Regulation and Oversight Office determines an applicant’s demographic qualification for the social equity program.

“Expected revenues in 2023 are $445 million,” Costello said. “That's a big number. These businesses and those that will follow create 1000s of well-paying jobs across the entire state of Illinois. They generate revenue that's reinvested directly into impacted communities throughout the state.”

Under the craft grower license, a recipient can grow and cultivate cannabis products for recreational use and supply dispensaries throughout the state. The facility is expected to create 50 jobs when in full operation and produce 5,000 square feet of canopy.

A Chicago native, Maria earned a Master's Degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield . Maria is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America. RFA is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. It is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit journalism organization. Un residente nativo de Chicago, Maria se graduó de University of Illinois Springfield con una licenciatura superior en periodismo de gobierno.