The operators of the Bloc cannabis dispensary, which they’re looking to open inside the former CVS building, 25 S. Harlem Ave., said they want to do more than just sell cannabis – they want to benefit the community.
Emerald Coast, which will own the Forest Park dispensary, hired Chicago-based Justice Cannabis Co., to handle the actual operations of Bloc. The company was founded with the goal of doing its part to make the cannabis industry just and equitable. As part of that, they plan to give priority to local residents when it comes to hiring and to also volunteer in the village. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.
Justice Cannabis spokesperson Lissa [sic] Druss emphasized that they take security seriously – something that, she argued would benefit the entire area, including the nearby CTA and Metra stations. Because cannabis dispensaries are a conditional zoning use, Emerald Coast will go before the Forest Park Planning & Zoning Commission on Feb. 21, and then to the village council for final approval of its plan. Druss said that, if the council approves the application, they expect to open in around 5-6 months.
Emerald Coast is co-owned by Justin Frankel of Katohan, N.Y., Alan Dordek of Wilmette, Tyrone Harris of Bellwood, and Mathew Joseph Hagglund of Normal. Under Illinois law, certain applicants, known as the “social equity justice involved” applicants, get a separate lottery for dispensary licenses, which increases their chances of qualifying. As veterans, Hagglund and Dordek fall under that category.
Emerald Coast got two conditional dispensary licenses on July 22, 2022. It has about six months to secure locations and get any necessary zoning approvals.
Justice Cannabis has a cannabis cultivation facility in Edgewood, IL, and it operates multiple dispensaries in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Missouri, Utah and Michigan. It is currently working with several companies to open dispensaries in the Chicago area. The dispensaries are all called “Bloc” because, Druss said, they wanted to emphasize the community-orientated nature of their business.
She said that Hagglund, who she described as a “primary owner,” approached them to operate their dispensaries.
“He’s a first-time business owner, and he wants to make sure that he runs the highest, most-exclusive, perfect high-end business possible,” Druss said. “He’s really excited about being a business owner and doing it the right way, and that’s why he fits so well with Justice Cannabis.”
She said that Justice Cannabis chose the location, mentioning its “ample parking” and its location on the Harlem Avenue corridor, near the three-way Forest Park/Oak Park/River Forest border. While she didn’t mention it, the location is near the Harlem/Lake CTA Green Line station and Union Pacific West Metra Line’s Oak Park station, as well as multiple CTA and Pace bus routes.
Druss said the business will only take up 5,000 sq. ft. of the CVS building. There will be “30-40 cameras” and security guards inside and outside the building.
“This is going to be bring much-added security to the former CVS location, which becomes a deterrent of crime,” she said.
In order to buy cannabis, customers need to present their drivers license or state ID. The staff will scan the ID, which will not only make sure that they’re eligible, but make sure they don’t buy more cannabis than they’re allowed. Most customers will simply pick up something they ordered ahead of time, but customers can also browse. Druss emphasized that the products on display would be facsimiles. In keeping with state law, customers wouldn’t be able to sample or use cannabis on the premises.
Druss said that Justice Cannabis plans to hire 20-25 people, with local residents getting priority. She added that “we really promote from within,” and that there will be plenty of opportunities as the company grows.
“We’re committed to be woven into the fabric of the community where we serve,” she said. “We have a hire local first edict, we volunteer with the community and get involved in [local community improvement] projects, we clean up.”