City to hold community meetings on recreational marijuana sales

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Starting next week, the city of Chicago is holding sessions to get public input on recreational marijuana sales.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to ban sales in certain areas like downtown. Each of the three meetings will begin at 6 p.m.

RELATED: Illinois Weed Legalization Guide

The meetings will take place on:
-Oct. 8 at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Jackson Blvd.
-Oct. 9 at Kennedy-King College, 6301 S. Halsted St.
-Oct. 10 at Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave.

Illinois Weed Legalization Guide: Will your city or town sell marijuana?

Each meeting will have a presentation on the law permitting the sale of recreational marijuana to adults 21 and older beginning on January 1, 2020.

Last month, Lightfoot introduced an ordinance to regulate marijuana dispensaries in Chicago and would keep them out of the Central Business District, which has gotten pushback from some aldermen.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is getting pushback over where she doesn't want recreational marijuana dispensaries to set up shop in Chicago.

Lightfoot introduced an ordinance Wednesday that would regulate where recreational marijuana can and cannot be sold in the city, once it becomes legal in Illinois starting January 1, 2020.

She wants to keep marijuana dispensaries out of the Central Business District, but that's seen by a number of aldermen as the prime area to make money off tourists and visitors. The area includes Magnificent Mile, a prime tourist attraction and a major source of revenue for the city.

"The area along our Mag Mile and our parks is incredibly important to our hotel and tourism business," Lightfoot said. "We want to make sure those stay family friendly locations."

Lightfoot's resolution would establish seven zones around the city with 13 retail locations in each. The entire downtown area is excluded.

RELATED: Illinois Weed Legalization Guide

Two aldermen representing downtown said they have issues with the mayor's zoning restrictions.

"It doesn't make sense from a revenue perspective," said Ald. Brian Hopkins, of the 2nd Ward. "There's no question we would generate the most revenue if we had dispensaries in the downtown area."

Ald. Brendan Reilly, of the 42nd Ward, said dispensaries don't have to be in prime retail strips, such as Magnificent Mile or State Street.

"But I do believe there is room for other licenses in the Central Business District," Reilly said.

The Magnificent Mile Association is taking a "wait and see" approach for now.

Some aldermen are hoping for compromise.

"If we're talking about raising revenue and raising funds, I would have doubled the fees for licenses in the Central Business District, as opposed to eliminating it totally," said Ald. Roderick Sawyer, of the 6th Ward.

Lightfoot said that revenue isn't her only concern.

"Again, we want to do it in a way that from the very beginning focuses on equity and expanding whatever economic opportunities there are to our neighborhoods and not just concentrated in the downtown area," she said.

The dispensary restrictions are expected to get pushback from the marijuana industry as well.

"Putting dispensaries where people live and people work, where they stay when they come to visit, is really important," said Jason Erkes, a spokesman for cannabis company Cresco Labs. "It's legal and we want people to have access and the stigma associated with cannabis shouldn't prevent that from happening."

Because the city desperately needs the revenue from recreational marijuana, there's a lot of incentive to get the zoning on this worked out quickly.

Ald. Reilly said he hopes it can be done before the City Council meets again in October.

Lightfoot's proposal will need the City Council's approval.

The cannabis zones established by the ordinance are:

- North District: city limits to the north, Lake Michigan to the east, Division Street to the south and Interstate 90/94 to the west.
- Central District: Division Street to the north, Lake Michigan to the east, Interstate 55 to the south and Interstate 90/94 to the west.
- Southeast District: Interstate 55 to the north, Lake Michigan to the east, 87th Street to the south and Interstate 90/94 to the west.
- Far South District: 87th Street to the north, Lake Michigan to the east and the city limits to the south and west.
- Southwest District: Interstate 55 to the north, Interstate 90/94 to the east, 87th Street to the south and the city limits to the west.
- West District: Division Street to the north, Interstate 90/94 to the east, Interstate 55 to the south and the city limits to the west.
- Northwest District: city limits to the north, Interstate 90/94 to the east, Division Street to the south and the city limits to the west.
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