Sweeping ordinance allows public pot use in licensed Chicago businesses, but Lightfoot ally says it was mistakenly introduced

Ald. Villegas’ plan would allow consumption in cannabis showrooms, licensed bars and even in the offices of doctors and “beauty professionals.”

SHARE Sweeping ordinance allows public pot use in licensed Chicago businesses, but Lightfoot ally says it was mistakenly introduced

Sun-Times file photo

Chicago would allow the public consumption of marijuana in dispensary showrooms and adjacent “cannabis cafes,” in licensed restaurants and bars and in the offices of doctors and even “beauty professionals” under a sweeping plan proposed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s floor leader — an ordinance he now says was filed prematurely.

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Economic and Capital Development, introduced the ordinance at Wednesday’s council meeting. But he says it was a starting point for negotiations, not a finished product.

“I’m gonna be pulling it back because it was not fully baked. It was premature,” Villegas said Thursday.

“My staff accidentally turned it in. They thought it was fully-baked. And I said, `No. We’re still having dialogue.’ That was a miscommunication by me and my staff.”

Even if it is just a starting point for discussion, the Villegas ordinance offers a window into how far Chicago could go in authorizing and licensing the sale and on-site consumption of recreational marijuana.

The detailed ordinance filed with the city clerk’s office would create four different types of on-site consumption licenses for businesses. They include:

• Dispensaries with two sub-categories: Showrooms that offer “tasting or sampling” of non-smokable cannabis products and “on-site café” licenses “located either on-site or directly adjacent to a licensed cannabis dispensary.” Neither of those dispensary-related licenses would require a special-use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals. That means area residents do not need to be notified or consulted.

License fees would range from $500 for a dispensary with a showroom smaller than 2,000 square feet to $10,000 for a showroom larger than 6,000 square feet. The fee for “on-site cannabis consumption co-location” site would be $5,000.


Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s floor leader

Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times

• Cannabis cafes “whose primary purpose” is to “allow for consumption on premises.” The license fee would be $100.

• Incidental licenses: For an annual license fee of $2,500, licensed restaurants and bars could apply for “incidental consumption on premises licenses” subject to rules promulgated by the city’s commissioner of business affairs and consumer protection.

• Professional licenses: This category would allow for “doctors, researchers, health, wellness, beauty professionals and services to allow for consumption on the premises incidental to their services.” The annual license fee would be $1,000.

“The term ‘professional’ is not meant to include alternate health and other fitness practitioners, including massage therapists, yoga [studios], chiropractors, neuropaths and others,” the ordinance states.

Cannabis on-site consumption licenses located in areas of Chicago with the business and commercial zoning designations B-1, B-2 and C-1 “shall not allow consumption on premises of smokeable cannabis after 9 p.m. and before 8 a.m.,” the ordinance states.

On-site consumption licenses in all other zoning designations — except off-limits residential areas — “shall not allow consumption of smokeable cannabis after 1 a.m. and before 7 a.m.,” the ordinance states.

The highest license fee would be $50,000 for a cannabis cultivator.

Creates Cannabis Public Education Fund

The ordinance further states that the city “shall use 10% of all license fees to create a Cannabis Public Education Fund.” Proceeds would be used to “educate middle school and high school youth on the dangers of purchasing street marijuana” and the “overall value of purchasing marijuana from licensed cannabis organizations.”

The goal is to “create an educated public and sophisticated consumers,” the ordinance states. The fund would serve as Chicago’s “primary tool for enforcement against youth possession and use of marijuana.”

Even when recreational weed becomes legal on Jan. 1, smoking in outdoor public places won’t be allowed anywhere in the state. But the law does say cities can allow public consumption in lounges or businesses.

Under pressure from public health advocates, Springfield architects of the state law that legalized recreational marijuana say they are now drafting a “trailer bill” that would impose strict limits for on-site consumption at businesses. That is expected to be debated in an upcoming veto session.

Against that backdrop, Villegas was asked why his opening gambit paints such a broad brush.

“It was just a collection of ideas. [The product of] discussions with industry people. They hadn’t been fully vetted out as to what would be acceptable. I wasn’t done talking to everybody,” the alderman said.

Villegas denied that the ideas floated in his sweeping ordinance represent the mayor’s views on the subject.

“We work closely together, but I’m a legislator, too,” he said.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, in which a zoning ordinance was introduced banning pot businesses from most of downtown, Lightfoot shed no additional light on how and where public consumption licenses would be awarded and how many there might be.

“We’re not there yet. We’re just starting with making sure that we get the boundaries” right, she said.

Earlier, a Lightfoot official said the city would not allow any the public consumption of marijuana in the city — but later clarified she was referring to public parks and streets and not businesses.

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