The Chicago City Council’s Zoning Committee voted to approve a plan that would allow more cannabis businesses in the downtown area.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot presented a plan that would eliminate the city’s cannabis zones and open up more of the downtown area to dispensaries, as part of an effort to bring more businesses to the area, Chicago Sun Times reported.
Shortly after Illinois legalized recreational cannabis use, 110 dispensaries opened in the state. Only 18 of those are located in Chicago. It’s estimated that the city lost more than $13 million in revenue.
In the first year that recreational weed was legalized, the state recorded over $1 billion in purchases.
The previous zoning law allowed for seven cannabis zones in the city, with a limit on the number of dispensaries allowed in each zone. The initial goal was to ensure the dispensaries would be evenly spread out across the city. In addition, the law designated downtown as an “exclusion zone” where dispensaries could not open due to the density of the area and the number of tourists, the Chicago Tribune reported in 2019.
The downtown “exclusion zone” is currently defined by Division Street in the north, Van Buren Street in the south and the western border goes from State Street down to the Chicago River in the loop.
The revised exclusion zone will be smaller, with Division and Van Buren streets continuing to serve as the north and south border, and Michigan and State streets now becoming the east and west boundary.
With a limited area available, dispensaries had to participate in a zoning lottery to potentially be approved to open a location in the city. More than 180 dispensary licenses are waiting to be issued but have been delayed due to a judge’s order in a pending lawsuit in Cook County.
The full City Council is expected to take up the proposal on Sept. 14.
[Chicago Sun Times] — Victoria Pruitt