Chicago cannabis fair connects residents with resources to benefit from recreational marijuana

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's first-ever Cannabis Resource Fair drew large crowds exactly one month after recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois.

The aim of the event Saturday was to help everyone benefit from the state's legalization of pot. A panel discussion featured Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Wanda James, the first black woman in the country legally licensed to own a cannabis dispensary, cultivation facility and edible company.

Lightfoot promised communities of color would not be forgotten.

"It means investing in the talent of our young people where they are in neighborhoods west of Ashland and south of Roosevelt Road," Lightfoot said.

The free event gave a close look into business and job opportunities.

"I wanted to see about job opportunities in the field," said Chicago resident Stacey Bergland. "Trying to get into the cannabis field."

Toi Hutchinson, Illinois' policy czar for recreational marijuana, talked about equity.

"Equity is three buckets: it's how to diversify the industry, what do you do with the money and how do you undo the harms," Hutchinson said.

There was also the expungement help Gabriel Rosa needs with marijuana conviction that's four years old. He said it has cost him several jobs.

"It was the lowest point of my life," Rosa said.

Recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois on January 1, and the industry has been met with concern that black and brown neighborhoods won't benefit from the boom.

Tio Hardiman, president of the Violence Interrupters, wants the city to sell pot peddlers licenses to ensure everyone shares in the wealth.

"Young black men and women have been locked up for decades selling illegal marijuana so now it's time for restorative justice, repair the harm, give the young people an opportunity," Hardiman said.
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