Three cannabis-related businesses recently received licenses to operate in Forest Park – and, according to Mayor Rory Hoskins, there is another party interested in opening a dispensary.
Karuna Ventures received a cannabis infuser license in 2021, allowing it to extract oil from cannabis plants, put that oil in products such as edibles and electric vapor pens, package the products and distribute them to dispensaries. More recently, Mint IL LLC got a license to open a cannabis cultivation plant at 7550 Industrial Dr. and got a go-ahead to start construction. And Alliance Transport Group will operate a cannabis transportation business out of a warehouse building at 1800 Desplaines Ave.
Hoskins said he supports the prospective cannabis businesses, because he believes they will create jobs in Forest Park. He also said there is a dispensary that is applying for a license, and while he didn’t elaborate any further, he said he doesn’t believe it will have any trouble getting village council approval.
Karuna Ventures and Alliance Transport Group didn’t respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment by deadline. But Mint co-owner Omar Fakhouri shared that they plan to grow cannabis not just for their planned dispensary in neighboring Riverside, but for any interested dispensaries throughout the region. He said they hope to have the plant up and running within the next 4 to 5 months but acknowledged that supply chain issues could delay the opening.
Under current village regulations, all cannabis-related businesses are allowed by right in industrial areas, but they need to get a Special Use permit if they want to open in a commercial area. The Planning & Zoning Commission voted unanimously on May 16 to recommend allowing it by right in the Madison Street corridor, but that’s still awaiting village council approval.
Karuna, which plans to open a facility at 1401 Circle Dr., has been applying for a dispensary, craft grow and infuser license, but according to state records, it only got the latter. Hoskins said he was comfortable with their proposal, saying that he appreciated that they “Karuna have stated that they want to hire Forest Park residents and that they want to be part of our small business community.”
According to state records, Alliance Transport is headed by Laisha Fox, of Lynwood, Travon Walker, of East St. Louis, and James Atkins, of Highland, Ind., who owns Just a Dish catering company.
Mint IL is co-owned by Fakhouri, of Troy, Mich., Reinaldo Ramos, of Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, and Joey Kejbou, of Rochester Hills, Mich. In addition to the Forest Park craft cannabis cultivation plant, the company is looking to open a dispensary in Riverside, at 2704 S. Harlem Ave.
Fakhouri emphasized to the Review that the Forest Park facility will be strictly for growing cannabis, and none of it will be sold there. He said the plan is to offer the product to any interested dispensaries in the region, but they won’t have any concrete plans until the facility is up and running.
Fakhouri said they wanted to locate in Forest Park because the location is close to Chicago, which helps in terms of proximity to customers and attracting employees. He also said they appreciated the village being business friendly.
“They were open to the idea,” Fakhouri said. “It just worked out well, to be able to get something going and going quicker in Forest Park. [We were] just happy with our conversations with the village, really liked the community.”
Hoskins said he supported Mint’s proposal as well, because he expected them to hire locally. Fakhouri told the Review that they “would love to hire from the community.” He attended Hoskins’ May 25 re-election campaign kick-off. Hoskins said in an email on July 5 that he has had no conversations with Alliance Transport.
Under state cannabis regulations, craft growers are only allowed to have 5,000 square feet of growing space during the first year. After that, the company will have the option of adding 3,000 square feet a year before maxing out at 14,000 square feet. Fakhouri said that Mint intends to take full advantage of that.
“I think, as we’re able to expand, per state rules, we will continue to need more people,” he said. “I think, initially, I anticipate having 25 employees, and as we go up, we’ll go up.”
He said the state application process has gone on for so long that he wasn’t even sure when it started, except that it couldn’t be any later then 2019. He said he doesn’t necessarily blame the Department of Agriculture, because he understood that the COVID-19 pandemic strained their resources. But now that they have the license, and their location and business plan has been approved by the department, they are ready to hit the ground running.
“It’s hopefully [going to open] – I’d say in the next few months, maybe four months five months,” Fakhouri said. “It really depends on the supply chain. There’s a lot of issues with getting the right equipment, because everything is on back order, so there’s a lot of supply chain issues, so it’s just the matter of when you can get the key equipment.”