Legal marijuana sales may be restricted from most of downtown Chicago

Legal marijuana sales may be restricted from most of downtown Chicago

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has proposed zoning changes that would keep marijuana dispensaries out of most of the downtown business district after recreational use becomes legal on Jan. 1 in Illinois.

Illinoisans starting Jan. 1 can legally relax with their favorite form of marijuana, but finding a place to buy it in downtown Chicago may create a little reefer madness.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Sept. 17 unveiled proposed zoning rules under which dispensaries could operate once legalization takes effect. Under the mayor’s plan, recreational marijuana dispensaries would be nonexistent in most of the Loop, the Magnificent Mile and the heart of the downtown business district. There would be no legal pot sales around Navy Pier, but there might be some down by Soldier Field.

Lightfoot and her deputy said the idea is to keep dispensaries from clustering in certain areas, to make sure entrepreneurs from communities impacted by the war on drugs get a chance and to avoid the dense areas frequented by tourists.

Her proposed ordinance would establish seven “zones” within which marijuana dispensaries could conduct business in the city. A separate zone – the “exclusion zone” – would ban sales in downtown Chicago’s most high-traffic areas. This zone would cover much of the central business district, spanning from Lake Michigan to where the Chicago River bends south to Ida B. Wells Drive, and a northern area extending from the lake and river to Oak Street and LaSalle Avenue.

Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward, told the Chicago Sun-Times that the city’s fiscal woes should at least open up the conversation about some centrally located dispensaries. “In order for this to be a successful revenue play for the city, we need to have some dispensaries located downtown,” Reilly said.

Chicago is currently facing a budget deficit of $838 million.

The proposed zoning rules would also prohibit dispensaries from opening in residential districts or within 500 feet of a school. State law will prohibit recreational marijuana use in all outdoor public places, but cities may allow it in lounges and businesses.

Under the mayor’s plan, a maximum of seven dispensaries could initially operate in each of the seven zones, for a total of 49. That maximum would then double to 14 dispensaries per zone in May 2020, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law the legalization bill in June, making Illinois the 11th state to allow the use and sale of recreational marijuana.

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