No new cannabis shops to open in Chicago next year, loans offered to Illinois social equity applicants

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Monday, October 28, new rules were released regarding Chicago’s cannabis shops. The rules clarified that there would be no expansion on the number of state-licensed legal weed stores, according to a source from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Currently, Chicago has 11 cannabis dispensaries; a number that is unlikely to change on January 1, 2020, when the state welcomes recreational legalization.

Existing operators will, however, have the opportunity to transform their businesses into dual-use stores. The law states that license holders can launch additional recreational cannabis stores for each individual license they possess.

First dispensary to be announced at Chicago cannabis lottery 

On November 15, a “cannabis lottery” will be held in Chicago. The lottery will determine which of the seven designated zones embraces recreational sales when legalization goes into effect next year. 

Chicago’s first recreational cannabis dispensary to open its doors will also be randomly selected at the event.

Listed below are the medical cannabis dispensaries that currently exist in Chicago:

  • Columbia Care Illinois
  • Dispensary 33
  • GreenGate Chicago
  • MOCA
  • Midway Dispensary
  • Maribis of Chicago
  • MedMar Lakeview
  • Mission Illinois
  • NuMed Chicago
  • The Herbal Care Center
  • Zen Leaf Chicago

Restrictions will be imposed on the number of cannabis dispensaries allowed in each participating district. Initially, the cap is set at seven, but up to 14 may be allowed by May 1. On this date, a new load of licenses will be distributed among firms that are not currently participating in Chicago’s legal cannabis market.

Chicago’s recreational cannabis market will have an exclusion zone

Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently amended Chicago’s recreational cannabis zoning ordinance. It was approved and enacted by the City Council in early October. Perhaps the most prominent part of the plan is an exclusion zone that will prohibit a broad scope of the downtown district from opening pot shops.

Prior to the approval of Lightfoot’s recreational cannabis zoning ordinance amendment, the City Council’s Black Caucus members put the brakes on a committee vote that would delay sales until July 1, 2020. It remains uncertain as to whether or not sales will be delayed.

Members of the 20-strong group argued that it is unfair to allow existing operators the chance to participate in Chicago’s recreational cannabis market ahead of anyone else. Moreover, Black Caucus members were concerned about the fact that white business owners make up the majority, as opposed to black business owners.

A potential delay for the rollout of recreational cannabis sales in Chicago is not the only thing dampening excitement for the industry’s initial launch. Lightfoot recently announced that, of the $11.65 million budget, just $3.5 million is being designated to recreational cannabis revenues. A three percent local excise tax on cannabis retail sales is expected to bring in just $1 million for Q4 2020, according to the Mayor.