Chicago is home to a few of the cannabis industry’s leading players, including publicly traded Cresco Labs, Verano, and Green Thumb Industries, and privately held PharmaCann. They dominate Crain’s new list of Chicago’s Largest Cannabis Companies. And they also ranked high on this year’s Fast 50, which recognizes the city’s fastest-growing companies.
Since Illinois’ legalization of recreational cannabis use in 2019 (with retail sales beginning Jan. 1, 2020), it’s no surprise Chicago’s cannabis companies have seen meteoric growth. In 2021, there was a total of $1.38 billion in Illinois adult-use cannabis sales – a 106.1% increase from 2020.
Crain’s inaugural list, ranked by number of local employees, includes both regionally headquartered companies and out-of-towners with a presence in the greater Chicago area.
No. 1 on the list – and homegrown in Chicago – is Cresco Labs with 1,150 full-time employees in the metro area. The company has six dispensaries in the Chicago area doing business as Sunnyside and two cultivation centers in Illinois. With operations in 10 states, Cresco Labs generated $821.7 million in 2021.
The second, third, and fourth rankings go to Chicago-based PharmaCann, Green Thumb Industries, and Verano, respectively. These three companies each have more than 400 employees in the metro area.
Verano operates the most local retail locations on this list: 10 dispensaries branded as Zen Leaf. With operations in 14 states, Verano also has the greatest number of companywide employees of all the Chicago-based establishments on the list – 3,881 employees total.
Wakefield, Mass.-based Curaleaf, No. 5 on the list, has the greatest presence in Chicago of all the out-of-towners with 400 local employees. The company has one namesake dispensary in the area and one cultivation center in Illinois.
Next year’s list may see new players and a shake-up in rankings since Illinois awarded 192 new retail licenses this year. However, Cresco Labs will likely maintain its No. 1 place, especially if the company completes its pending acquisition of New York-based Columbia Care, which currently ranks No. 9 on the list.