Cresco Labs launches ‘incubator program’ for minority-owned cannabis companies

CHICAGO— Chicago-based cannabis giant Cresco Labs is launching a “community business incubator” program for minority-owned companies in Illinois.

In a statement, the company said it is accepting applications for an incubator program that provides technical and financial assistance to members of minority communities looking to apply for licenses and launch craft growing or infusing businesses.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture will be issuing a limited number of permits for new cannabis companies, including to  “social equity” applicants who are based in or belong to minority communities that were negatively impacted by the War on Drugs.

Critics of the first wave of dispensaries that were approved in Chicago noted that none were owned by people of color. By giving preference to social equity applicants, lawmakers hope to introduce more diversity into the marketplace.

But the application process can be complicated and costly, so a variety of programs are offering assistance to help get new businesses off the ground. Incubators typically provide services like expert advice, funding or facilities to startup companies in return for a percentage of the business.

Cresco Labs currently operates across seven states, including more than 30 production facilities and 20 dispensaries, according to its website. The company said it is accepting applicants to its incubator program by January 14.

The state deadline for new craft growing and infusing businesses is March 16, and new licenses will be issued by July 1.

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