21 applicants for cannabis dispensary included in the lottery to award 75 licenses in Illinois

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Green Thumb Industries (GTI) is one of the world’s largest cannabis companies. In two quarters of 2020, business has already doubled since last year. In May, GTI announced sales of more than $ 102 million in the first quarter. This made GTI the first US-based company to hit nine numbers in a quarter.

CEO Ben Kovler, who founded the company in 2014, attributes their large numbers and success to a relatively small focus.

“We start with the consumer. The business is built for the American consumer. We stay there and we see a lot of momentum there, ”said Kovler in a telephone interview.

The American consumer is certainly reacting well in the company’s home state of Illinois, where recreational cannabis had sales of $ 100 million in the first three months. Despite a difficult year ending with an extremely important election, GTI is now ready to expand both its patient services and its contributions to correcting the notorious injustice in the industry.

Eye on Nevada: Essence Acquisition & Partnership with Cookies

Last summer, Green Thumb announced that it had completed the acquisition of Integral Associates, the parent company of the cannabis brand Essence. Essence has eight licenses in the state of Nevada, including the only licensed pharmacy on the Las Vegas Strip. As part of the deal, GTI also gained control of Cannabiotix, a 41,000-square-foot cultivation and processing facility.

“We had three stores and now we have up to five in Las Vegas. It went really well, ”said Kovler of the takeover. Essence opened two new retail stores in the second quarter. GTI’s crown jewel in Vegas is yet to come, however: in August, they announced a partnership with Berner’s high-end brand Cookies, which is known to take responsibility for the original Girl Scout Cookies variety.

The partnership with Cookies, which positions itself as a luxury cannabis use brand, is another point in GTI’s strategy: working with companies in the field that is already successful

“We’re looking for acquisitions that create long-term shareholder value,” said Kovler when asked about GTI’s approach to the mergers and acquisitions that are so common in cannabis. “Some people buy businesses that are broken and that they need to fix … we buy and we work with executives.”

Cookies will open its first Nevada store on the Las Vegas Strip in the first quarter of 2021, while all Essence locations in the area will start with the signature types of Cookies, including Gary Payton and Cereal Milk.

GTI and the drug war

Kovler also recognized that claiming the “American cannabis” cloak may mean a bright and profitable future, but comes with a dark past.

“We’re not blind to the fact that we’re building a business in an industry that has put many people in jail … essentially ruined people’s lives and their chances of success,” he said.

Kovler described GTI’s new License Education Assistance Program (LEAP) in his home state of Illinois. LEAP is a pro bono initiative that guides social justice applicants through the process of applying for a license, which is often confusing and time consuming.

“Here comes an application from the state – nobody really has any idea how to do it, we have an advantage. This is how we can help educate people and enable them to be successful, ”he said.

As soon as the state of Illinois grants its next round of social justice licenses – which is expected to take place in the next few weeks – LEAP will move into its second phase as an incubator to “promote opportunities and success for new social justice entrepreneurs in the emerging cannabis industry “. ”According to a statement released by the company.

“This program will at some point move from LEAP – that’s license support – to a financial incubator. Imagine a situation where we can select the most skilled entrepreneurs who need capital to draw their business plans to enable them to succeed, ”explained Kovler.

Green Thumb has already earmarked $ 1 million in funds for pharmacy incubator participants and $ 200,000 for craft farmer participants. GTI does not retain ownership of the participating companies.

“I actually think Illinois will lead the way [in social equity] and anticipate other programs in places like New Jersey and Pennsylvania, ”Kovler predicted. While the state faces a number of challenges exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, Illinois is pursuing its “three-legged chair” approach to restoring, reinvesting, and engaging the communities hardest hit by the war on drugs.

“We can’t control the external environment … we can control how we work,” summarized Kovler. “So that was key … just keep delivering day in and day out and set a standard of excellence in trying to build a great American consumer brand every day.”