Jason Erkes Of Cresco Labs Discusses Plans For Danville Cannabis Dispensary

Cresco Labs plans to start work in late January to convert this vacant restaurant on Lynch Road in Danville into a cannabis dispensary.

Operators of a new recreational cannabis dispensary in Danville say they hope to open in the spring.

Chicago-based Cresco Labs operates cannabis businesses in seven states. In Illinois, it owns cannabis cultivation facilities in Joliet, Lincoln and Kankakee, and operates recreational dispensaries under its Sunnyside brand in Rockford, Chicago, Elmwood Park, Buffalo Grove and Champaign. It’s now awaiting approval for state licenses to operate five additional dispensaries, including one on the east end of Danville, at the former Border Café/Big Boy Restaurant building, located on Lynch Road.

As part of Illinois Newsroom’s “State of Cannabis” series, Jim Meadows talked with Cresco Labs’ chief communications officer, Jason Erkes  about the project, and addressed some concerns raised by its neighbors. What follows is an edited interview, beginning with an explanation from Erkes about the status of the Danville dispensary.

Erkes: We’re going through the final approval process now and hope to begin construction towards the end of the month, and open up towards the end of March. We’ll be converting this into a Sunnyside dispensary, which is really an educational and welcoming experience for those interested in learning about cannabis and making their first purchase.

Meadows: So, one of the things you have in mind is looking to first time buyers?

Erkes: We recognize that there’s a lot of new consumers to cannabis, as it’s now legal in Illinois. And we want to take the time to educate them on the products, different consumption methods, proper dosage, and really help them walk them through the process and make their first legal purchase.

Meadows: In talking to some of the people who work at the hotels and the gas station near the Danville dispensary site, one concern I heard more than once was about security at the facility. How is security handled at the cannabis dispensaries?

Erkes: This is really just a retail store where people are coming in, buying something that’s pre-packaged and leaving, the same as they would go into their local Walgreens or CVS. There’s no onsite consumption. There’s no unpackaged cannabis products on site. And of course, there’s multiple security measures in place, including indoor and outdoor cameras that feed to the state police, as well as security guards on premise at all times. So, people are really just coming in and making a purchase and leaving, and we really don’t foresee any security issues at a retail store.

Meadows: Another concern I heard was whether extra traffic would clog up the Lynch Road area, as well as the access road which the dispensary will share with several hotels. Plus, the expected opening of a casino on the other side of the interstate nearby could also be a factor. Do you see any problems coming up with traffic?

Erkes: One of our top priorities is being a good neighbor. So we’ll make sure we have ample parking, and do whatever we need to, to make sure we aren’t disruptive to the local community. Last week (the first week of January) with the recreational launch in Illinois, we’ve proved our ability to manage crowds and lines and parking. And we’ll make sure that we do the same when we open up in Danville.

Meadows: The Danville dispensary will be less than a mile from the Indiana border. What does the law in Illinois say about sales to out of state residents at the dispensary?

Erkes: The tourist market is a big market for Illinois, and we hope to attract people that are traveling into the state, of course, making them aware of what the consumption laws are, while they’re here. And of course, everyone knows you can’t cross over state lines with cannabis products, because it’s still federally illegal.

Meadows: You can’t do it. But don’t you expect that to happen?

Erkes: I mean, I can’t — we’re a licensed business in Illinois, and we can sell to consumers that are both residents and tourists. And, that’s what we’ll do. And a big part of that will be educating people on what the rules of consumption and traveling laws are.

Meadows: So you’ll be telling people who are from out of state — and if you’re checking their ID, you’re likely to know if they’re from out of state or not. But you’ll be telling them each time that that they’re not supposed to take it across the state line?

Erkes: Well, I think people generally know that if cannabis is legal in the state, it’s legal for that state. So we will certainly participate in the education process. But, I think people know if they’re driving across the state line to make a purchase, it has to be consumed in that state.

Meadows: Well, that brings up another question. You’ll be at an area with nine hotels nearby. What’s the status of usage of cannabis at those hotels?

Erkes: I believe the law says that you can only consume in your place of residence. I know that certain hotels around the state and around the country are cannabis friendly. I can’t speak to the hotels in that neighborhood. But right now the law says that you have to consume in your residence. So people will have to do that.

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Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focustalk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.