How one lab is prepping for potential changes to marijuana laws

Changing laws are increasing access to medical cannabis in Illinois and with talks of legalization on the horizon, FOX 32 wanted to check where we are and where we could be headed.

Joe Caltabiano took FOX 32 on a tour of Cresco Labs' massive cultivation center in Joliet. They opened their doors in 2015 when the first patients could qualify for medical marijuana in Illinois. And since that time, Cresco has been racing to expand as laws around cannabis continue to change.

In August, Governor Bruce Rauner signed the "alternative to opioids" act into law.

“Now you no longer have to have a fingerprinting or a background check done. A patient has to consult with their physician, be certified that they have one of the conditions that allows for the use for cannabis,” Caltabiano said.

And Governor-Elect JB Pritzker wants to take it one step further, looking at legalizing recreational marijuana as early as next year.

If it does become legal, residents over 21 will likely be able to buy weed and weed products through dispensaries -- the same way it’s distributed for medical reasons right now.

“We have an opportunity here in Illinois to bring $700 million of revenue to the state to create jobs across the state, production facilities, dispensaries,” Pritzker said.

For Cresco, that's all the company needs to hear to keep growing.

“We're adding on another hundred-thousand square feet to our Lincoln facility to ramp up for any pending legislative changes that occur,” Caltabiano said.

Right now, regulations are tight for any cannabis manufacturer in the state -- including Cresco -- which takes the plant from growing to harvesting to finished product, all in the same facility.

Cresco says it will make products in the same way, whether they're for recreational or medical use.

“We're excited to see where this plant goes, and how it can really map out to specific conditions over the long term,” Caltabiano said.

Groups like the “Healthy and Productive Coalition of Illinois” are against legalization and say marijuana will not bring the budget windfall that most in Illinois expect.