It's Wednesday! Today is National Opposite Day. So we wish you a terrible day and hope you delete this newsletter immediately. 🀣

❄️ Today's weather: It's snowing. The heaviest should fall this morning. Forecasters are expecting anywhere from 1-3 inches. High of 34Β°.

Today's newsletter is 917 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Cannabis industry needs seed money

A flowering cannabis plant is seen through a magnifying glass at a cultivation center in Bridgeview. Photo: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

After a long court battle over marijuana licensing was resolved last year, Chicago dispensaries and craft growers have finally found footing to start their businesses.

  • One problem: Seed money is drying up.

Why it matters: Stemming from a downturn in the economy and the delayed rollout of cannabis licenses, weed investors are pulling back on funding local entrepreneurs.

  • "You have hundreds of individuals who spent tens of thousands of dollars on retail licenses that they thought would take three months to obtain, but instead took two and a half years," Brad Spirrison, CEO of cannabis industry insights firm Grown In, tells Axios.
  • "Now that they got the licenses, cannabis stocks are in a depression, and nobody has any money."

Context: Weed stocks ended 2022 in decline, mainly due to Congress' inaction to pass the SAFE Banking Act, which would have legalized banks' providing financial services to the marijuana industry.

  • Institutional investors that are federally chartered cannot invest or trade in cannabis businesses because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.
  • Analysts are worried about investments in 2023.

Zoom in: That's where the new 1871 Cannabis Innovation Lab comes in. The Chicago startup incubator launched the lab this week and is looking to connect license holders and craft growers with investors outside the cannabis space, namely in the tech sector.

How it works: The lab is a nonprofit initiative modeled after tech accelerators like Techstars.

  • 19 licensed companies will participate in a 12-week accelerator program, where they're paired with bigger companies, investors and experts to network, mentor and share resources.

Keep reading

2. 2022: Rejected vanity license plates

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The state rejected 383 vanity plate requests last year for violating "good taste," according to the Illinois Secretary of State's Office.

Why it matters: The rejected requests offer a glimpse into local "decency" standards, not to mention the minds of your fellow drivers.

Zoom in: We dug into the 2022 rejected list and found some trends, including applicants' desire to:

  • Use variations on the F-word
  • Criticize the governor
  • Label oneself as the B-word
  • Promote the letter Q
  • Describe sex acts or body parts
  • Call oneself an A-hole o Bad A--
  • Praise Satan

Yes but: Other rejected requests seemed less controversial like BAPTSD, TOFU, DOGBARF, WACKJOB, FARTLEK, THE GOV, FUNKE and DR FUNK.

  • State officials tell us applicants can contest rejections, especially if the request reflects their own name. And that happens a few times a year.
  • So Dr. Funk, now's your chance.

By the numbers: Less than 1% of last year's roughly 54,200 custom plates requests were rejected.

  • This year's list of 383 names joins 7,387 on the banned list.
  • The state rejected 572 in 2021 and 499 in 2020. Maybe the pandemic gave us a little too much free time.

What they're saying: "We love the creativity and pride Illinoisans take in choosing their personalized license plates," Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias tells Axios, noting that only a tiny fraction are rejected.

Bonus: Many of the rejected names are NSFW even for this newsletter, but we've posted a few pages of them on our Instagram for informational purposes.

  • Warning: You may start looking at the folks in the DMV line differently after reading.

3. Tips and hot links

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🎟 Sen. Dick Durbin and Jam Productions CEO Jerry Mickelson slammed Live Nation over the Taylor Swift ticket fiasco and market domination during Senate hearings yesterday. (Crain's)

πŸͺ Old Navy's flagship store is now old news. The downtown location at Randolph and State has closed for good after 10 years. (Block Club)

πŸ•΅οΈβ€β™€οΈ Major League Baseball is investigating new White Sox pitcher Mike Clevinger following allegations of domestic violence and child abuse from last June, when he was with the Padres. (The Athletic πŸ”’)

4. UChicago breakthroughs 101

Image courtesy of University of Chicago.

In recent years, folks at the University of Chicago have worked to make their brainy achievements more accessible to the regular guy.

Why it matters: Universities can attract more students and public support if people actually understand their big benefits to the world.

  • But academics are notorious for speaking a language that's hard for outsiders to grok.

What's happening: Last year we spotlighted the "Big Brains" podcast that explores UChicago findings in a 30-minute format.

  • This year UChicago communicators have further distilled the info into written explainers and short videos called "The Day Tomorrow Began."

Zoom in: So far the series has tackled black holes, quantum technology, ancient civilizations and, most recently, the discovery of REM sleep.

What they're saying: "Our faculty members have a distinct reputation for shaping and defining new fields of study," UChicago communications specialist Paul Rand tells Axios.

  • He notes that the series is meant to bring research "to life and highlight where we are going next."

What's ahead: Look for episodes on "economics, carbon dating, social work, cancer research, and the first nuclear reaction. And we're just scratching the surface," Rand says.

πŸ•° Not to brag but: Axios did a great job explaining the importance of UChicago's Doomsday Clock yesterday in this story about our record proximity to, um, doom.

Wake up to a brighter future

⏰ Finding, connecting, and building success with our Job Board.

  1. Tax Marketing Leader, Associate Director at EY.
  2. Director, Business Development - Digital at Cboe.
  3. Director of Food Service Sales – IL Territory at Vienna Beef.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Post a Job.

5. Where's Justin? Mansueto Library

Justin is standing on South Ellis Street at 57th. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

You guessed it! Justin is standing in front of the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library on UChicago's campus.

  • The library was built in 2011 by architect Helmut Jahn as an extension of the famed Regenstein Library next door.

Fun fact: The library has an average time of three minutes for the retrieval of archival materials through the use of robotic cranes.

Congrats to Nolan W. and Kelsey R., whose name we pulled from a library book return box. You can pick up your swag at our next live event. Details coming soon!

Editor's note: In yesterday's story on the future of Soldier Field, we incorrectly called the redevelopment firm Landmark Preservation. It's Landmark Development.

Our picks:

πŸ₯˜ Monica is intrigued by the five-course dinner chef Sarah Stegner will be hosting at Prairie Grass Cafe on Feb. 2 to help fund culinary lessons for students at underserved schools through the Evolved Network.

🎬 Justin is bummed that Jordan Peele's "Nope" got snubbed by the Oscars. Peele spent time performing in Chicago before moving to Hollywood.

Edited by Alexa Mencia and copy edited by Rob Reinalda and Keely Bastow.