Crafting a Winning Illinois Department of Agriculture Cannabis Craft Grower Application

As the State of Illinois’ Department of Agriculture prepares to to accept applications from craft growers, infusers, and transporters, applicants are scrambling to get the various application requirements prepared for submission. The Illinois Department of Agriculture will begin accepting applications on February 14, 2020 and will cease accepting applications on March 16, 2020 at 5:00 pm central time. Preparing the necessary license application materials requires cannabis craft grower applicants to not only review and understand the applicable Application and Exhibits documentation but also the applicable portions of the Illinois Cannabis Regulations and Tax Act, the Emergency Rules that were released by the Department of Agriculture in January, and the Application Questions and Answers prepared and released by the Illinois Department of Agriculture (publication of the second round of application questions and answers is still pending).

Applicants should thoroughly review each of the items noted above to ensure their applications contain reference to all applicable legal requirements as the Application and Exhibits packets do not list all such information. 

When it comes to Illinois’ craft grower application, in addition to filling out the necessary application forms, applicants must also prepare and submit the following exhibits:

Exhibit List For Illinois’ Craft Grower Application

A: Suitability of the Proposed Facility 
B: Suitability of Employee Training Plan 
C: Security Plan and Recordkeeping 
D: Cultivation Plan 
E: Product Safety and Labeling Plan 
F: Business Plan and Services to be Offered 
G: Social Equity Applicant 
H: Applicant’s Labor and Employment Practices 
I: Environmental Plan 
J: Illinois Resident Controlled or Owned 
K: Veteran Controlled or Owned 
L: Diversity Plan 
M: Bonus Section (Optional) 
N: Property Ownership 
O: Notice of Proper Zoning 
P: Organizational Information and Financial Interest Disclosure 
Q: Principal Officer or Board Member Disclosure Statement 
R: Notarized Statement 
S: Fingerprint Consent Form

Craft grower applications will be scored using a point system that allocates 1,000 possible points to each application with the possibility of earning two (2) bonus/additional points. Section 1300.307 of the Emergency Rules, allocates the maximum points per exhibit as follows: 

>ExhibitPoints Possible
A: Suitability of the Proposed Facility 75 points (broken down into three sections each worth 25 points)
B: Suitability of Employee Training Plan 50 points (broken down into two sections each worth 25 points)
C: Security Plan and Recordkeeping 145 points (broken down into four sections worth 40 points, 40 points, 40 points, and 25 points respectively)
D: Cultivation Plan 75 points (broken down into three sections worth 25 points each) 
E: Product Safety and Labeling Plan 95 points (broken down into three sections worth 35, 35, and 25 points respectively)
F: Business Plan and Services to be Offered 110 points (broken down into three sections worth 40 points, 40 points, and 30 points respectively)
G: Social Equity Applicant 200 points
H: Applicant’s Labor and Employment Practices 20 points
I: Environmental Plan 20 points (broken down into two sections worth 10 points each)
J: Illinois Resident Controlled or Owned 90 points
K: Veteran Controlled or Owned 20 points
L: Diversity Plan 100 points
M: Bonus Section (Optional) 2 points (three different bonus plans available – Community Benefits Plan, Substance Abuse Prevention Plan, and Local Community/Neighborhood Report)
N: Property Ownership No specified points – however completion required in compliance with the Act and Rules
O: Notice of Proper Zoning No specified points – however completion required in compliance with the Act and Rules
P: Organizational Information and Financial Interest Disclosure No specified points – however completion required in compliance with the Act and Rules
Q: Principal Officer or Board Member Disclosure Statement No specified points – however completion required in compliance with the Act and Rules
R: Notarized Statement No specified points – however completion required in compliance with the Act and Rules
S: Fingerprint Consent FormNo specified points – however completion required in compliance with the Act and Rules

Advantages For Social Equity Applicants (Exhibit G)

Given that it is worth 200 points, it is clear that being a social equity applicant will be imperative for applicants to have a realistic chance of obtaining one of the 40 craft grow licenses that may be issued on July 1, 2020. The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act defines a “social equity applicant” as an applicant that is an Illinois resident that meets one of the following criteria:

  • an applicant with at least 51% ownership and control by one or more individuals who have resided for at least 5 of the preceding 10 years in a Disproportionately Impacted Area;
  • an applicant with at least 51% ownership and control by one or more individuals who: 
    1. have been arrested for, convicted of, or adjudicated delinquent for any offense that is eligible for expungement under this Act; or 
    2. is a member of an impacted family;
  • for applicants with a minimum of 10 full-time employees, an applicant with at least 51% of current employees who:
    1. currently reside in a Disproportionately Impacted Area; or
    2. have been arrested for, convicted of, or adjudicated delinquent for any offense that is eligible for expungement under this Act or member of an impacted family.

How Illinois’ Craft Grower Applications Will Be Scored

To be considered for a craft grower license, an applicant must receive at least 75% of the points available. Of the applicants that receive at least 75% of the points available, the top 40 scoring applicants will receive a license. This means that while the Department of Agriculture may issue up to 40 licenses on July 1, 2020, it may issue less than 40 licenses if less than 40 applicants meet the 75% score threshold. Thus, obtaining the maximum points available on each scored section of the application is key.

Other High Scoring Exhibits in Illinois’ Craft Grower Application

Other highly scored exhibits include the Security and Recordkeeping Plan, Business Plan and Services to be Offered, and Diversity Plan. The cannabis industry attorneys at Rogoway Law Group suggests that potential craft grower applicants work with security companies that have experience working with cannabis companies to create both a written security plan and a security floor plan the meets all security and recordkeeping requirements. Additionally, we suggest that potential craft grower applicants hire experienced business plan writers to construct their business plans to ensure that the applicant’s vision, financials, and all other required elements are appropriately and creatively documented.

Applicants should craft each required exhibit as if it is the only exhibit a reviewer will read. Therefore, applicants can expect their exhibits to be somewhat repetitive and extremely detailed. With so few licenses available in this round of licensing, no relevant topic should be left undiscussed and great care should be taken to ensure the application exhibits contain all information required by the Act, the Rules, the application packet, and the Q&A responses.

You can click the following links to access the infuser and transporter Application and Exhibits packets. For further information regarding Illinois license applications, please contact Blair Gue at Rogoway Law Group

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