In the recent competition for cannabis business licenses in Illinois, Ambrose Jackson’s team struck gold. They won rights to both grow and sell their own cannabis. Jackson is quitting his health care management job to commit full time to becoming a legal marijuana business owner.
But he’s anxious about it, because now the hard part starts for license holders — hustling for funding. Like contestants on the TV show “Shark Tank,” they must sell themselves and their plans to get the millions of dollars they need to get started.
Because cannabis remains illegal under federal law, many banks won’t lend to cannabis companies. So weed entrepreneurs like Jackson are exploring innovative ways to raise cash. It may require an unusual business plan, working with competitors, and some help from lawmakers.
“There’s lots of interest in Illinois,” Jackson said. “A lot of people are trying to figure out how they can create the best deal.”
One option is to seek a loan through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. DCEO has about $17 million, generated from cannabis sales, for loans to license holders who qualify as “social equity” applicants. Social equity means they or a close family member had a prior low-level marijuana arrest or conviction, were from an area with high rates of poverty or cannabis arrests, or companies that have more than half their employees meet those criteria. [Read more at Chicago Tribune]