Illinois' first cannabis infusion company opens in Pekin
Krown LLC became the first cannabis infusion business in Illinois with a ribbon cutting on Tuesday.
The Pekin-based facility is about 13,000 square feet of kitchens, prep rooms and packaging tables. Co-founders Allison Dries and Eric Labraaten say the business makes their own brand of Enliven edibles, as well as producing gummies for Oregon-based company Wyld.
Dries, a former chemical engineering supervisor, says she was interested in food chemistry and drawn to the cannabis industry.
“We’re going to offer a lot of different types of cookies, some Sweet-Tart type candies and mints,” said Dries. “Then with the infusion license, we can also expand into vape cartridges and any other like topical creams.”
Labraaten hopes these provide some alternatives to the edibles currently on Illinois dispensary shelves.
“We’re trying to create healthier options,” he said. “Kind of a lower dosage for new users.
As a woman and veteran-owned business, Krown received a social equity license in June. It’s also the first social equity licensed infuser in the state.
Christy Jones, deputy director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, says Krown represents just one of 48 social equity licenses issued that month.
“There are nearly a dozen more IDOA licensees moving forward with construction,” said Jones at the ribbon cutting. “And even more that are close to that point.”
Dries and Labraaten applied for the license in March 2020.
“Our application was actually due March 16, 2020, which was the same week that the entire world shut down due to the COVID pandemic,” said Dries. “We were anticipating hearing the results in July 2020. And that was put on hold for another year and three months.”
Krown was awarded the infusion license in August 2021. Labraaten said, even after getting past COVID delays, navigating the new world of cannabis in Illinois can be difficult.
“Trying to get through that and dealing with what seems to be a new business, even for the Department of Ag,” he said. “So dealing with some of the issues that came up with just, kind of learning together seems like, that's been frustrating.”
The founders said they also applied for a cannabis growing license and hope to revisit the possibility of growing in the future.
The next question to answer was location. After a roughly five- month search, the Pekin City Council approved a special use permit for Krown’s Brenkman Drive facility. Dries said she lives around 10 miles from the building they settled on.
“I was looking for an area that was zoned properly within an hour of Peoria that was welcoming to business and met all the state zoning criteria. And where, you know, we felt that we could safely operate,” she said. “The whole city of Pekin was very welcoming to us.”
Pekin Mayor Mark Luft was present at Tuesday’s ribbon cutting to welcome the company.
“I'm very proud as a community member, and the mayor of Pekin, to have them here. And to watch them grow,” he said. “It's going to be an exciting journey.”
The social equity status of Krown extends beyond the company’s ownership to its hiring practices. Dries said they’re starting with 17 employees and hope to double that number in the businesses’ second year. The process will focus on potential employees who have been disadvantaged by the war on drugs.
“Whether that means living in a real estate area that had been highly targeted in the past or perhaps they've had a cannabis conviction on their record or their family member had a cannabis conviction on the record,” said Dries. “Maybe spent some time in jail for a really small amount of marijuana, which now is, you know, perfectly legal.”
Dries and Labraaten expect the facility to be fully operating within the next few weeks.
Wyld brand products made at Krown will be on Illinois dispensary shelves in December; Dries said Enliven brand edibles will begin rolling out in the first quarter of 2023.