Chicago lawmakers give the go-head for recreational cannabis dispensaries

As per the rules that were approved by the City Council this October, Chicago would separate the city into seven distinct zones for proper oversight of all things weed-related

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

In July, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act into effect. It legalized the production, consumption and sale of cannabis in Illinois.

Fast forward to 2020 and Chicago will hold a lottery, but it’s not the kind of lottery that involves winning money. Rather, a lucky ticket holder will get the chance to become the first recreational cannabis dispensary owner in the Illinois city.

The winner of Chicago’s cannabis lottery will have the privilege of choosing where they wish to launch their business. Although it is uncertain as to who will score this opportunity, one thing’s for certain – recreational cannabis dispensaries in Chicago will be evenly scattered around the metropolis.

Chicago’s recreational cannabis rules were approved by the City Council

As per the rules that were approved by the City Council this October, Chicago would separate the city into seven distinct zones for proper oversight of all things weed-related. A maximum of seven recreational cannabis dispensary permits will be distributed to each zone; the permits will be selected during Chicago’s cannabis lottery. 

With the help of her staff team, Mayor Lori Lightfoot prepared Chicago’s cannabis lottery in collaboration with local pot advocates, industry professionals and cannabis policy experts. The mayor of Chicago decided that drawing the lottery to select permit holders will be the fairest way of doing so. He says that it will ensure recreational cannabis dispensary owners in every location gain equal opportunity to participate in the city’s budding industry.

In order to be included in Chicago’s cannabis lottery, hopeful recreational cannabis permit holders must first obtain a dispensary license by applying with the state. The draft rules for recreational cannabis in Chicago state that there are openings for 38 new dispensaries. Since 11 medical cannabis dispensaries currently exist in the city, they will be granted the opportunity to expand operations on January 1, 2020 as per the prospective legalization. 

Debate has erupted regarding the zoning rules outlined in Chicago’s recreational cannabis language, primarily due to the fact that the existing medical cannabis dispensaries are owned by white residents. Dispensaries already in operation can be found scattered around the Northernmost part of Chicago. No dispensaries have opened their doors in the River North, South Loop and West Loop neighborhoods.

Chicago’s recreational cannabis rules: Some critics fussed about the proposed “exclusion zone”

Chicago’s recreational cannabis rules feature an exclusion zone of numerous downtown areas, including the “Magnificent Mile”, which is located in the city’s premier commercial district, as well as the home of Millennium Park, “The Loop”. As a result of Chicago’s cannabis dispensary exclusion zones, cynics say that the city could be leaving valuable cannabis sales tax revenues on the table.

The city attributed its choice to exclude the aforementioned downtown locations due to their “unique character, configuration and congestion.” City officials claim that their decision will “protect high-threat security areas with intensive pedestrian, tourism and entertainment-related traffic.” 

Chicago’s Zoning Board of Appeals will now be left in charge of reviewing the exclusion zones featured in the city’s cannabis rules. Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed the five-strong Board, which was approved by the City Council. It will be in charge of preparing rules for Chicago’s cannabis lottery in 2020.