Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced a proposed ordinance on Wednesday that would establish licenses for safe and legal cannabis consumption sites in the city. The proposal is described by the mayor’s office as an effort to expand economic opportunities across the city and bring more entrepreneurs into the emerging cannabis industry. Under a measure passed by the Illinois legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker in June, marijuana will become legal for use by adults on January 1.
“As the city prepares for legalization of adult use cannabis next month, we are working alongside the state and taking every effort to stand this industry up in a way that is safe, responsible and offers the maximum level of opportunity for Chicago’s residents and businesses,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “With this legislation, more entrepreneurs will be eligible to participate in the cannabis economy, including those who have borne the brunt of the war on drugs, and Chicago’s residents will have the opportunity to consume cannabis in a safe location.”
Under Lightfoot’s proposal, some specialty tobacco stores such as cigar shops and hookah lounges would be able to apply for a license issued by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) to allow the public consumption of cannabis on the premises. The licenses would be limited to such businesses that derive at least 80% of their revenue from tobacco-related products.
“Chicago’s consumption license program will provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to participate in the new business of recreational cannabis consumption under a strong regulatory scheme,” said BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareno. “We are excited to take the lead in developing regulations that promote economic opportunity while ensuring public consumption of cannabis will take place safely and responsibly.”
Strict Requirements for Licenses
To qualify for a license, the specialty tobacco shop must be in a stand-alone building with proper ventilation systems in place. Businesses must also establish a safety plan approved by the city and train employees on safe consumption. Shops located in the designated commercial cannabis exclusion zone that covers most of downtown including the Magnificent Mile would not be eligible.
Businesses licensed for onsite cannabis consumption would not be permitted to serve alcohol or allow patrons to bring their own. They would also be required to be at least 500 feet away from schools and other establishments licensed for public consumption.
Edie Moore, the executive director of Chicago NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), said that the proposed ordinance would help ensure that small businesses benefit from the economic opportunities that come with legal cannabis.
“Today marks an important step forward towards ensuring small businesses sprout from this emerging industry and benefit from this new wave of economic growth,” said Moore. “We will continue to work with Mayor Lightfoot and our local legislators to ensure Chicago’s entrepreneurs have the support they need and deserve to thrive in this new industry.”
Lightfoot’s administration is expected to develop a proposal next year that would allow for cannabis consumption in licensed marijuana dispensaries.