What NECANN 2022 Says About Today's Illinois Cannabis Industry

Illinois Cannabis Market Sets to Surge Back from Slow Start 

The Illinois cannabis industry in June 2022 looks much like it did back in 2020 when the market first opened. Illinois is still one of the nation’s least accessible legal cannabis markets, with only one dispensary per 90,000 adult residents. Besides a few new entrants and innovations, the operators that opened this market still dominate dispensary menus today. 

But all of that is about to change. Illinois has finally begun issuing Dispensary, Craft Grow, Infusion, and Transportation licenses. Many new license holders could be found walking the floor of NECANN among other Illinois cannabis enthusiasts and businesspeople.  

However, these licensees’ businesses are by no means “booth ready". Besides the big players like Weedmaps, Curaleaf, and 4front, most other booths were ancillary businesses, small CBD/smoke shop boutiques, or – most interestingly – seed and grow suppliers.  

The exhibitors and attendees at NECANN 2022 show us that Illinois is ready to get growing. There is new support for licensees, from banking to cultivation technology. The last two years of licensing delays in Illinois have given ancillary businesses time to perfect their offering, so the market is ripe for partnerships. 


Industry-Nurtured Home Grow Narrows the Gap  

But the last two years have been hard on Illinois consumers. The price of cannabis flower has remained high, and, due to the lack of competition and few craft-grown cannabis producers, high-quality flower can be prohibitively expensive.  

That’s where home grow comes in. Illinois allows medical patients to grow up to five cannabis plants, giving medical consumers a legal option beyond the adult-use market. With legal home grow only enacted in 2019, Illinois still lags behind other states when it comes to consumer-reported home growing – 11% of Illinois cannabis consumers grew their own cannabis in 2021. For comparison, 19% of Michigan consumers reported home growing last year, as the state has a longer history of medical home growing. 

Illinois grow stores and suppliers have expanded to support these new growers’ needs – whether a licensed craft grower or an aspiring home grower. Seed geneticists were at the ready to discuss hundreds of seeds or a three-pack, while one booth was giving away home grow bucket kits. The enthusiasm around growing seems to continue to rise as businesses – such as Aroma Grow Store – seize the trend by expanding to new locations around Illinois and holding virtual cannabis growing classes.  

The Illinois cannabis industry is at a tipping point. The new brands Illinois consumers have been waiting for are almost here, and the Illinois market will look very different at NECANN 2023. For now, we’ll continue to watch the success of new operators and home grow adoption in Illinois.