You can weigh in on public pot use, expungement for weed crimes at community hearings this week

The city is still finalizing details of how and when marijuana use will be permitted, and is also seeking input on expungement and other issues.

SHARE You can weigh in on public pot use, expungement for weed crimes at community hearings this week
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, recreational pot will be legal in Illinois, but highly restricted in public spaces.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, recreational pot will be legal for adults in Illinois, but highly restricted in public spaces.

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Chicagoans will have two chances this week to weigh in on some of the lingering issues related to the imminent legalization of recreational weed, including the licensing of businesses that could allow on-site pot use.

The meetings, announced Sunday by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office, will be held Thursday at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Jackson, and Friday at Chicago State University, 9501 S. King Drive. Both will start at 6 p.m.

Officials from the mayor’s office, the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Department of Public Health are looking to the public for insight on “business licensure for on-site consumption, expungement, and other opportunities to inform laws that will ensure cannabis sales and use will be safe and responsible for the city,” according to a statement.

The city previously held a series of public meetings in October after Lightfoot introduced a local zoning ordinance for cannabis businesses. A revised version of that legislation was approved later that month by the City Council after the 20-member Black Caucus raised issues with the lack of equity in the cannabis industry — though the ordinance doesn’t substantively address those concerns.

The focus on licensing public consumption spaces comes less than a month before recreational cannabis sales will kick off statewide. Because pot use will still be prohibited in public places — as well as at public housing facilities and a host of downtown hotels — it’s likely that some businesses will be licensed to permit public consumption will be designated for residents and tourists to avoid being reprimanded for using a legal substance.

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Economic and Capital Development and Lightfoot’s floor leader, introduced a sweeping plan in September that would have allowed pot use at a range of businesses, including in bars and restaurants and at doctors’ offices and yoga studios. Villegas swiftly pulled back, claiming the ordinance was “not fully baked” and accidentally introduced.

That plan wouldn’t have jived with legislation state lawmakers passed in November to address concerns health advocates raised about the legalization law’s loose language regarding consumption spaces.

Initially, the law offered an exemption to the Smoke Free Illinois Act to pot establishments and other businesses “authorized or permitted by a unit of local government.” But the November “trailer” bill made it clear that on-site marijuana consumption will only be allowed at dispensaries and at licensed smoke lounges, like cigar shops.

This week’s meetings will be live-streamed on Lightfoot’s Twitter and Facebook pages.

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