Krown LLC founder explains the role of a cannabis infusion company

A new company in Beijing is the first of its kind in the state. Krown LLC is a cannabis infusion company and the first cannabis infusion company to be licensed through a social equity application.

Founder Allison Dries says she applied in March 2020 along with co-founder Eric Labraaten.

“We also applied for the Craft Grower, but we couldn’t get that license at the time,” she said. “The entire application process for all licenses was incredibly competitive.”

The infusion license means Krown will not grow or sell cannabis on-site at its 13,000-square-foot facility in Beijing. Dries says infusion is the process that turns concentrated THC distillate into the products that line Illinois pharmacy shelves.

“We can buy the concentrated THC distillate at a cultivation center and then infuse it into all kinds of consumer products,” she said. “Products like gummies, cookies, mints, topicals, vapes, all the different types of products that consumers enjoy.”

Dries holds a chemistry degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She spent 16 years at Caterpillar as a chemist in fuel and oil research, eventually becoming a supervisor for engineering teams managing the chemicals and lubricants used in tractor manufacturing. She says after a while she was looking for a different experience.

“COVID, I think, has really changed a lot of people’s perceptions of how they value their careers and what they want out of life, and something like that,” she said. “And I certainly felt no different. I was looking for something completely different.”

Dries is also interested in food chemistry, and when she read that the state was looking for Illinois scientists and engineers to apply for the licenses, it seemed like a good fit for her background. The next step was to find a space that met all the requirements for a cannabis store.

“You had to find some kind of unicorn from a building. It had to be standalone, it couldn’t be connected to anything else like a mall or even another store. It had to be an industrial area. So you can’t put that in a residential area or even in a commercial area,” Dries said. “And even then, it still had to be 1,000 feet from anything that could potentially offend people, like a church, school or daycare.” It was quite an extensive list.”

Dries found the Beijing location by working with a real estate agent and proposed a special use permit to the city council.

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The Krown LLC building includes 13,000 square feet of kitchens, prep rooms and packaging facilities.

“I think everyone sees the potential for growth and jobs. And of course the possibilities, the tax revenue that it brings,” said Dries. “The tax revenue can be used for things like the Park District and roads. And I think everyone is excited about those kinds of opportunities.”

The Council unanimously agreed to this.

“It was a really exciting day,” said Dries. “And then we closed the building and started the remodeling.”

The conversion included two kitchens, packaging facilities and storage. It also included updates to comply with state regulations for a cannabis business.

“You need 24/7 surveillance for every inch of the building, inside and out,” said Dries. “So the Department of Ag and the Illinois State Police and any other agencies that request it have day and night access to see what’s going on every inch of the building.”

Dries says sometimes working with government agencies felt like they were both learning the rules of cannabis legislation.

“They have had some experiences with medicinal cultivators. But they released some or created so many new licenses and deals that they ramped up,” she said. “And they have to send auditors to all these companies on a weekly basis as soon as they are online. That’s why they hired a lot of new employees. And so the new hires learn a lot while auditing us.”

Dries hopes the process of opening a cannabis business will ultimately be streamlined.

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Krown LLC co-founders Allison Dries (center left) and Eric Labraaten (center right) cut the ribbon in front of their new cannabis infusion facility on Tuesday.

“I think that really depends on federal legalization. I think most people in the industry agree it’s coming eventually, we just don’t know when a lot of people are trending towards five to 10 years,” she said. “I think maybe that’s a bit optimistic. But I think eventually it will happen.”

Krown LLC also has a designation as a Social Justice Claimant. Dries says this will be reflected in their hiring practices. Their employment base focuses on people whose lives have been negatively impacted by the drug war.

“Maybe they lost their job or couldn’t get jobs after that, especially if it was a criminal offense,” Dries said. “By creating diverse jobs in the legal cannabis sector, we really want to focus our hiring practices on providing opportunities for people who are directly impacted by things like this.”

Krown currently has 17 employees. Dries says they are targeting 34 employees next year and 68 employees in 2024. These employees will develop two product brands at Krown. The first is Wyld, an Oregon-based cannabis edibles company for which Krown will make gummies. The other is Enliven, Krown’s own house brand.

“There’s just not much available right now other than gummies,” said Dries, “so we have an opportunity to bring some really creative new products to market.”

Dries says Enliven will start with a few cookie flavors, eventually expanding to cannabis-infused mints. She also wants to explore protein-based and gluten-free edible options.

“These are just the products we’re bringing to market, and as the months go by we’re getting a lot more creative,” she said.

Enliven products are expected to be available on Illinois pharmacy shelves in early 2023.

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