Cresco Labs, a cannabis company based in Chicago, announced Wednesday that it’s acquiring New York-based Columbia Care to form the largest marijuana company in the United States by revenue and the second largest based on its retail footprint. Trulieve Cannabis, based in Florida, has 158 dispensaries, giving it the title for No.1 in retail space.

The $2 billion deal is part of a trend of early-entry cannabis companies seeking to gain as much market share as possible while legalization takes off across the country. Once the deal is complete, Cresco will have a foothold in 17 states and Washington, D.C., up from the 10 states where it currently has a presence.

“This is how you turn brands like High Supply, Cresco and FloraCal into Miller High Life, Coca-Cola and Johnnie Walker Blue Label,” Charlie Bachtell, Cresco’s CEO, told Bloomberg.

Signage at Columbia Care, a medical marijuana dispensary opened in the East Village in Manhattan, January 7, 2016.

Signage at Columbia Care, a medical marijuana dispensary opened in the East Village in Manhattan, January 7, 2016.

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Signage at Columbia Care, a medical marijuana dispensary opened in the East Village in Manhattan, January 7, 2016.
Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

Cresco and Columbia Care, both publicly traded companies, already hold medical marijuana licenses in New York, and each has four dispensaries scattered statewide. The two companies have already snagged valuable real estate in the five boroughs ahead of the launch of New York’s recreational cannabis market, which is expected at the end of this year. Cresco, which is branded as Sunnyside in New York, has a retail outpost in Williamsburg, while Columbia Care has its flagship shop near Union Square and another in Downtown Brooklyn.

Columbia Care also holds a medical license in New Jersey, another state on the verge of launching its adult-use market. Based on Cresco’s own assessment, the deal creates a “pathway to a top-three position” for the firm in New York, New Jersey and Florida, in addition to positioning the company to hold the top market share in four other states.

It's yet unclear if regulators in New York and New Jersey will require additional approvals or changes in order for the deal to move forward.