Business, News, Politics

Chicago City Council Committee Votes to Ease Cannabis Restrictions

September 14, 2021 01:57 pm ET

In a push to expand the city’s cannabis industry, the Chicago City Council Zoning Committee has approved a plan put forth by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to loosen cannabis zoning requirements and increase the number of dispensaries downtown. The move comes as Lightfoot strives to make Chicago more attractive to cannabis businesses.

The city’s previous cannabis zones, which were eliminated by the vote, cornered dispensaries into operating only in certain parts of the metropolis. Additionally, the zoning restrictions limited the number of dispensaries allowed in each zone following the state’s legalization of recreational cannabis on Jan. 1, 2020. According to WTTW, the zones were created primarily due to concerns that dispensaries would corrupt the city’s central business district in the eyes of families and tourists “looking for G-rated fun.”

As over a hundred dispensaries began to open up around the state following legalization, only 18 cannabis shops established themselves in Chicago, leading to more than $13 million in lost revenue. While the recent 14-4 vote by the city council will not open up all of downtown Chicago to cannabis businesses, it will reduce the exclusion zone greatly by moving the east and west boundaries to Michigan and State streets respectively. The full city council is expected to take up the proposal on Sept. 14.

Many stakeholders are hoping to see the loosened Chicago cannabis restrictions benefit minority cannabis entrepreneurs, some of whom are vying for a cannabis license through the state’s extra cannabis lottery after clerical errors tainted the July lottery. The state is still waiting to distribute 180 licenses to lottery winners due to an ongoing lawsuit surrounding the application process.

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