No additional pot shops expected to open in Chicago by Jan. 1

The buzzkill comes in the form of new city rules announced Monday which make it clear that the city’s 11 existing medical pot shops will probably be the only places to buy recreational weed by the start of next year.

SHARE No additional pot shops expected to open in Chicago by Jan. 1
Jerred Kiloh, owner of the Higher Path medical marijuana dispensary, stocks shelves with with cannabis products in Los Angeles.

No new marijuana dispensaries are expected to open before Jan. 1, when sales of recreational weed start.

AP file photo

Chicagoans looking to grab a bag of legal weed when sales kick off on New Year’s Day will likely face long lines at the few stores — less than a dozen — that are expected to be open.

The buzzkill comes in the form of new city rules announced Monday which make it clear that the city’s 11 existing medical pot shops will likely be the only places to purchase recreational pot come Jan. 1. A source at the Zoning Board of Appeals confirmed that will probably be the case.

Under the state legalization law, existing operators can convert existing medical cannabis dispensaries into dual-use stores and open additional recreational shops for each license they currently hold. 

The new rules outline a special-use permit lottery scheduled for Nov. 15 that will allow operators in the Chicago area to identify which of the city’s seven designated districts for recreational dispensaries they intend to move into. The number of recreational pot shops in each district will initially be capped at seven but could be increased to 14 by May 1, when another batch of licenses is made available to firms that don’t already have an interest in the state’s pot game.

After being selected through the lottery, applicants are required to host at least one community meeting in the ward where they hope to open up shop before receiving a special-use zoning permit. Following the Nov. 15 meeting where the lottery will take place, the zoning board will only hold one other meeting this year on Dec. 20 — meaning the timeframe to meet those requirements is incredibly tight.

The existing medical clinics in Chicago are:

  • Dispensary 33, 5001 N. Clark St.
  • MOCA, 2847 W. Fullerton Ave.
  • Midway Dispensary, 5648 S. Archer Ave.
  • Maribis of Chicago, 4570 S. Archer Ave.
  • Columbia Care Illinois, 4758 N. Milwaukee Ave.
  • Zen Leaf Chicago, 6428 N. Milwaukee Ave.
  • MedMar Lakeview, 3812 N. Clark St.
  • The Herbal Care Center, 1301 S. Western Ave.
  • Mission Illinois, 8554 S. Commercial Ave.
  • GreenGate Chicago, 7305 N. Rogers Ave.
  • NuMed Chicago, 1308 W. North Ave.

Earlier this month, the City Council adopted Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s amended recreational marijuana zoning ordinance. Most notably, the plan includes a so-called exclusion zone that designates a huge swath of the downtown area as off limits for pot shops.

A day before the rules were approved, members of the City Council’s Black Caucus delayed a committee vote while raising concerns about existing operators having first crack at selling recreational pot, and the utter lack of black ownership in the state’s pot business. The powerful 20-member caucus ultimately introduced an ordinance that threatened to delay sales of recreational weed from starting in the city until July 1, although it’s unclear whether members will attempt to advance the plan.

Even before Monday’s announcement that licensing for new pot shops is being slow-rolled, Lightfoot has repeatedly downplayed recreational marijuana’s potential economic impact on the city.

Last week, she announced an $11.65 billion budget that includes only $3.5 million in recreational pot revenues. The proposal, which only includes revenues for the final four months of 2020, projects that a local 3% excise tax on pot sales would bring in $1 million and increased sales tax revenue would drum up the rest of the cannabis cash.

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