By Carol Thompson
CHICAGO (CBS) — Entrepreneurs are eager to enter the marijuana market come January 1, 2020.
Adult-use (recreational) cannabis becomes legal in the new year. Experts estimate it will produce sales in the $270 million to $1.6 billion range.
So, how do you get started? Where can you learn the business? What do you really need to know?
Before you attend free seminars that entice you to buy expensive classes that ultimately encourage you to invest tens of thousands of dollars for access to “experts,” simply go online, where you will find a wealth of legitimate advice and guidance. A lot of it is free of charge or relatively inexpensive.
You can start at the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, the agency responsible for licensing dispensaries. On the IDFPR website, you will find applications, a map of disproportionately impacted locations, sample organizational charts for your new business, a list of approved vendors and a link to the state law. Eventually similar information will be available at the Department of Agriculture website for people hoping to become cultivation center owners, processors and craft growers.
Another freebie from the state is a fact sheet detailing taxes and fees, requirements for advertising and packaging and home growing rules, among other important details.
You can also learn about applying for low-interest loans as part of the state’s Social Equity program through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The program also provides technical support if you need help creating a business plan or filling out applications.
You can keep track of zoning laws and learn whether your community is allowing or has banned cannabis businesses by going to your own city, town or village website.
Here’s an option that does cost something. If you want to learn the cannabis business from real insiders you can go back to school. So far, just one Illinois community college offers a certificate course.
Oakton Community College will expand its Cannabis Dispensary and Patient Care program in the Spring to its Skokie and Des Plaines campuses. In December, the first 20 students will earn certificates from that program. The 12 credit hour course educates future entrepreneurs in topics like ethics, laws and dispensary operations. All students get the lowest credit hour tuition rate – so the entire program costs just over $1,600.
There is also information available on how to avoid swindles associated with this budding business. The Securities and Exchange Commission gives some tips on avoiding investment frauds. The Illinois Department of Commerce has some warning signs to spot cannabis industry scams. If you think you may have already been the victim of one, you will find links on places where you can file complaints.
Carol Thompson is a CBS 2 investigative producer