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Jim Belushi’s New Role: Marijuana Mogul

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Jim Belushi wants Belushi Farms to go national, using the well-known Blues Brothers brand.

Jim Belushi’s next TV project isn’t a follow-up to his sitcom, “According to Jim.” It’s a reality show about his latest passion: the marijuana business.

The 65-year-old became a gentleman weed farmer a few years ago after Oregon legalized cannabis use. Now he wants Belushi Farms to go national, using the well-known Blues Brothers brand and building a serious company. He grows and sells products under other brand names in Oregon.

A key test of his growth strategy will be getting into stores in his home state of Illinois when recreational marijuana goes legal next year. “Illinois is going to be a huge market,” says Belushi, who grew up in Wheaton but has lived in Los Angeles for a couple of decades. “I want to be on the shelves come Jan. 1.” He says he’s serious about plans to drive a replica of the Bluesmobile—topped with a joint instead of a giant PA speaker—on Lake Street under the el to mark the occasion.

Belushi’s ambitions reflect the rapid evolution of marijuana into a big business. Early players in what was a highly regulated, slow-moving medical cannabis industry are scrambling to build consumer brands for a market that’s expected to explode. His focus on Illinois underscores the sixth-largest state’s importance, both as a major retail market and as an industry hub that’s home to four of the largest cannabis companies. Illinois will be the 11th state to legalize marijuana use by the public, but many expect it to go national eventually.

Belushi plans to launch growing operations in California and Nevada. He also has been talking with large cannabis companies, including some based in Chicago, to line up partnerships with growers, manufacturers and retailers that will be needed to take the Blue Brothers brand national and international. The structure could vary by market, from contract production and distribution deals to more traditional licensing and royalty arrangements. Like the industry itself, Belushi’s company is evolving. He’s bootstrapped the effort so far but plans to raise capital.

Marijuana entrepreneurs like Belushi face unique challenges that have impeded the creation of nationwide, mass-market pot brands. Not only is the industry new, but the product is still illegal under federal law. That restricts advertising and deprives marijuana brands of the federal copyright and trademark protections available to other consumer products.

To Read The Rest Of This Article By John Pletz on Crain’s Chicago Business

Published: July 03, 2019

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