Mayor Lori Lightfoot has devised a proposal to ease Chicago’s zoning rules to open marijuana dispensaries downtown. Alderman advanced the mayor’s proposal on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 20201. Lightfoot believes this will make it easier for minority applicants are able to get into the lucrative cannabis industry — which is currently locally dominated by White-owned companies.
The mayor’s plan would open up more of the downtown area to allow cannabis businesses to set up shop. Only a small area of Chicago’s center would continue to exclude dispensaries, under the Mayor’s new proposal. This area would include a stretch approaching Navy Pier from Michigan, Michigan Ave, and in the South Loop.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Will Shih — city analyst — told the Zoning Committee they hope to allow dispensaries to operate on prime real estate will give minority marijuana license owners a better opportunity to get their businesses up and running in Chicago.
Shih stated, in a first-round of state marijuana approvals, dozens of license holders chose to open in the suburbs. This was because the zoning process in the suburbs is easier than in Chicago.
Some Zoning Committee members are worried that the new proposed ordinance would not protect the interest of Latino and Black entrepreneurs. Initially, they held off on voting on the proposal.
Alderman Roderick Sawyer, 6th, told the Zoning Committee that he was working on the language of the proposal to help protect minority-owned marijuana companies. Sawyer stated he would submit the new proposal language at a later date. Meanwhile, the committee voted to advance Lightfoot’s plan.
The mayor also wants to ease the ordinance in some of the outlying parts of the city’s neighborhood zoning restrictions. Easement of these restrictions will make it so cannabis license-holding entrepreneurs can open without being drawn into lengthy processes with community and alderman groups.
Far South SIde Alderman Anthony Beale, 9th, expects that minority licensees will still be forced to sell their licenses to better-funded white-owned cannabis conglomerates — even with the state set to allow dozens of licenses in the Chicago area.
Beale believes that the people are “being hoodwinked once again.” He continued on with, “here we are saying we have to hurry up and vote for this so social equity people can get a piece of the pie.” He added that the minorities “are not getting a piece of this pie.” Beale believes this is due to “the same people who wrote this (state) law are the same people who own all the dispensaries.”
Southwest Side Alderman Raymond Lopez does not think that Lightfoot’s plan will work. He cites it on the fact that they have “had two years to get this right and continue this conversation, and we haven’t done that.”
Lightfoot’s updated zoning proposal is set to go in front of the full City Council next week.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Chicago Tribune: Marijuana dispensaries would be allowed in more of downtown Chicago under new plan from Mayor Lori Lightfoot advanced by panel Wednesday; by John Byrne
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