Chicago OKs marijuana zoning, prohibits sales in Loop
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's plan to establish zoning ground rules for the sale of recreational marijuana in Chicago cleared the city council Wednesday, despite lingering demands for minority ownership.
The city council's 20-member black caucus had threatened to hold up the ordinance over concerns that blacks have "zero representation" among the owners of 11 medical marijuana dispensaries that would get a running start when recreational weed sales begin Jan. 1.
They would be allowed to immediately pivot to recreational marijuana sales during the first year of legalization and have the exclusive right to open a second location until late spring, when new businesses would finally get a chance to bid.
But when aldermen reconvened Wednesday on the morning after a marathon zoning committee meeting, the mayor's revised ordinance was approved by a vote of 40 to 10.
It was a hard-earned victory for Lightfoot, whose top aides lobbied hard to avoid a delay that could have cost the city sorely needed revenue.
"This is a good day for Chicago," Lightfoot said from the rostrum.
The mayor said she sympathizes with the demand for minority ownership and told aldermen, "I will be your partner" in seeking redress from the General Assembly.
The revised version of Lightfoot's zoning plan will prohibit recreational weed sales in the Central Business District. The original proposal's "exclusion zone" for pot shops would have stretched from Oak Street to Ida B. Wells Drive and from Lake Michigan to LaSalle Street in River North and to the Chicago River in the Loop.
The modified ordinance will prohibit those sales north of the river from Lake Michigan to State Street, instead of LaSalle Street, and extend the northern boundary to Division Street, rather than Oak Street.
Under the plan approved Wednesday, the southern boundary of the weed-free zone will be moved north from Ida B. Wells Drive to Van Buren Street.
Downtown Alderman Brendan Reilly said Wednesday he would have preferred a "more permissive" ordinance that would have yielded more money for the cash-strapped city. Referring to a $838 million shortfall, Reilly said the city is "staring into a fiscal abyss."
• This story was produced in partnership with the Chicago Sun-Times. For related coverage, visit chicago.suntimes.com.