The cannabis market in Illinois is flourishing. According to the state’s annual report from the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), with the opening of 28 new retailers and more than $1.5 billion in total retail sales, legal marijuana in Illinois saw “unprecedented growth” in 2023.
Taking part in the state’s burgeoning industry is Oregonix, a licensed craft cannabis cultivator based in Illinois. Its two co-founders bring a wealth of knowledge and experience that helped build the business into what it is today.
Reaching Northern Heights
Now, Oregonix just debuted its inaugural brand, Northern Heights. This launch introduces a curated selection of cannabis products, including eighths and pre-roll packs featuring four distinctive strains: Super Boof, Sherb Cake, Strawberry Gary and Bomb Sauce, the company states.
These offerings are soon set to grace the shelves of adult-use dispensaries throughout the state of Illinois.
“In a burgeoning market like Illinois, where cannabis enthusiasts demand excellence, Oregonix is proud to introduce Northern Heights,” says CEO David Schwimmer. “With Northern Heights, we aim to set a new standard for craft cannabis, providing consumers with an unmatched experience.”
The name Northern Heights actually came from Co-founder and COO Owen Papworth’s wife. “Ever since, Northern Heights has been in full swing and we couldn’t be more excited about seeing it come to fruition and sitting on dispensary shelves throughout Illinois,” he says.
Bringing Oregonix to Fruition
As one of the select few licensed craft cannabis cultivators in Illinois, Oregonix sets itself apart by focusing on growing the best, not the most. “This is what Oregonix is founded on and how we strive to maintain our position in the tumultuous legal cannabis industry,” says Papworth. “You can easily see the difference this makes in each gram of our Northern Heights flower.”
Oregonix was a natural progression for Papworth in his career. After spending the last 16 years developing cannabis products and processes in Oregon, he cultivated a wealth of knowledge and skills that helped him evolve a cannabis business in a less developed market such as Illinois.
“The market in Oregon is very competitive with a ton of pressure to continuously evolve business practices to survive,” Papworth explains. “When David Schwimmer proposed the idea for a craft cultivation facility in Illinois, I was very excited to bring what I learned in Oregon to Illinois’ cannabis industry.”
Aside from co-founding Oregonix, Papworth also founded Sitka Northwest, the maker of the popular extract brand Disco Dabs. Prior to that, he was also the Director of Cultivation at Noblecraft Farm in Canby, Oregon.
Bumps Along the Road
As with any business, Oregonix had some difficulties getting off the ground. “From the very beginning, there was no clear approval process from the state or county level to help prepare a 100% accurate budget to stick to,” Papworth explains. “For example, regulators did not provide a clear checklist prior to the construction of our facility.”
In fact, regulators would even approve things that were later deemed as not approved, according to Papworth. In turn, this created never-ending additions to their budget that nearly put them out of business before they could even turn the lights on.
What helped Papworth and Schwimmer get through these challenges was the perseverance to not quit. “Personally, when it comes to pushing through difficult times and making sure things get done, I start by making a list. From there, I bring in all the people who are experts in their respective areas to solve each problem and I listen to them.”
Together, the team puts all potential solutions on the table and makes a decision. Rinse and repeat the above until it’s all done — a motto in which many other businesses should also live by.
Oregonix Boosting the Illinois Market
The Illinois market has strict regulations and limited licenses, according to Papworth. This means the quality of products is lower than it will be in the future as the market develops. It also means that consumers currently have less access to a wider variety of products compared to more mature markets.
Oregonix plans on contributing to the overall growth and development of the cannabis industry in the state by bringing more access to craft cannabis. “Northern Heights has several unique products in its pipeline that have yet to hit dispensaries in Illinois. At the end of the day, we do this for the people who want and need safe access to cannabis,” Papworth explains.
As more consumers choose cannabis over alcohol, opioids and other substances, the industry will only continue to grow in legal states — and Oregonix plans to be there every step of the way in Illinois.
“The future for the cannabis industry is bright in strongly regulated states like Illinois. With that said, I am excited to watch the state’s legal cannabis market evolve and grow, and to see how Oregonix and Northern Heights make their mark along the way,” concludes Papworth.