Chicago pot giants GTI, Verano quietly team up in joint venture – Chicago Sun-Times

Two Chicago-based firms that have emerged as major players in the country’s increasingly competitive cannabis industry are partnered together in a company that owns two Illinois dispensaries.

Subsidiaries of Green Thumb Industries and Verano Holdings are the registered managers of ILDISP LLC, according to records kept by the Illinois secretary of state’s office. That shell company is listed as the sole manager of NH Medicinal Dispensaries LLC, which holds the licenses for GTI’s Rise dispensary in Effingham and Verano’s Zen Leaf pot shop in Charleston.

The owners of both companies were some of the first to cash in when Illinois legalized medical marijuana in 2015. Since then, their respective businesses have blossomed into multibillion-dollar behemoths, with retail and cultivation operations spread across multiple states.

GTI already trades on the U.S. “penny stocks” market and the Canadian Securities Exchange. And last month, Verano announced plans to follow suit by going public in Canada after raising $100 million in new funding.

As the partnership has grown more lucrative, the state has failed to issue new licenses prioritized to so-called social equity applicants. After being pitched as the first step in diversifying the state’s overwhelmingly white cannabis industry, the stymied licensing process has ultimately given existing operators an even longer head start to sell recreational pot with limited competition.

Rickey Hendon, a former state senator and current dispensary applicant, complained that the deal runs counter to the state’s equity goals and “helps to create the monopoly that we’re trying to get away from.”

Rise Joliet is owned by Green Thumb Industries, which is now partnering with competitor Verano in two Illinois dispensaries. Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

In 2016, GTI entered into the joint partnership with Ataraxia, a downstate cannabis cultivator that was co-founded by Verano CEO George Archos. That’s when GTI and

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