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Oglesby cannabis grower launches $1.5 million expansion

Mayor says GTI anticipates adding 40-50 jobs

The Green Thumb Industries cannabis cultivation facility is planning on expanding, which could create 40-50 new jobs.
The Green Thumb Industries cannabis cultivation facility is planning on expanding, which could create 40-50 new jobs.

With a little over 100 days until recreational marijuana becomes legal in Illinois, Oglesby licensed cannabis grower is expanding and adding new jobs.

Monday, Oglesby Mayor Dom Rivara announced that Green Thumb Industries plans to launch a $1.5 million expansion of its operations in the next 30 days. Rivara termed it “an elaborate kind of operation” that, once completed, would create 40-50 jobs.

Rivara said he has “mixed emotions” about legalization — Oglesby, he said, would not modify its drug testing policy for city employees — but not at all conflicted about the economic development opportunity at hand.

“How do you say no to jobs?” Rivara said.

GTI wasn’t immediately available for comment Monday but company spokespersons had stated late last year the Oglesby facility would be used for research and development limited staff until at least 2020, by which time they anticipated recreational cannabis would be legalized in Illinois.

That prediction proved correct. In late June, Gov. J.B. Pritzker enacted Public Act 101-27, which legalizes and regulates recreational cannabis starting Jan. 1, 2020.

Monday’s announcement marks a major reversal for GTI, which first approached Oglesby in 2014 seeking to set up shop and anticipating 100 jobs and 5,000 pounds of product.

However, demand was lower than forecast and there were regulatory problems with both the federal government and with the state of Illinois. At one point, GTI was growing one plant it couldn’t sell. The company’s fortunes seemed to bottom out in February 2017 when a company representative asked La Salle County for a $1 million reduction in tax assessment, which the county denied.

At that time, GTI disclosed they anticipated 90,000 medical cannabis prescriptions issued statewide but only about 8,000 such prescriptions have been issued. At that time, only a quarter of the Oglesby facility was finished — a 10,000-square-foot “grow section” occupying two room — and a workforce of two cultivating fewer than 10 cannabis plants.

Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or courtreporter@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_Court.

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