First craft cannabis grow house opens in Rockford

Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 6:13 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The marijuana industry rakes in millions of dollars for Illinois each year, and Rockford’s marijuana economy is growing with the introduction of a new grow house.

Star Buds is a craft grow company with an ownership that is 66% black. The company expects to bring economic growth to South Rockford, with the hope of positively impacting the surrounding community.

“These businesses and those that will follow create thousands of well-paying jobs across the entire state of Illinois. They generate revenue that’s reinvested directly into impacted communities,” said Department of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello.

Star Buds is the first social equity craft grow house in the state to open its doors, but it won’t be the last and could lead the way to a brighter path for many communities across the United States.

The store began earlier this year as part of governor J.B. Pritzker’s push to provide craft grow licenses to social equity applicants. Individuals with a social equity license must live in a designated area that’s had a high rate of arrests and incarcerations for marijuana-related activity. The program is part of the state’s cannabis regulation and tax act, and allows those who were previously negatively impacted by these arrests to get involved with the legal cannabis industry.

“As the first round of states largely in the west legalized one of the things they were finding was how do we focus on assisting these communities that were most impacted by the war on drugs. How do we focus on ensuring those who are impacted by it aren’t left behind?” David Lakeman, Division Manager for Cannabis and Hemp at the Department of Agriculture told 23 News.

Star Buds chose south Rockford for its home and expects to add dozens of jobs in a place hit hard by the war on drugs.

“If you’re really looking at eradicating the generational wealth gap in minorities you’ve got to bring access and diversity into business such as this that can do just that,” said Tiffany Hightower, part owner of Star Buds.

The marijuana industry in Illinois expects revenues to top $445 million in 2023. Star Buds is a part of representative Maurice West’s district. He thinks no matter what your personal opinions are about cannabis, you can’t argue what more money would mean to an area in need.

“Youth development, violence prevention, financial literacy, literacy in itself, there are so many areas we can target for our region, might as well target them all,” he said.

Mayor McNamara echoed West’s thoughts, expecting the money made from state revenue to be plunged back into helping the community surrounding Star Buds.