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Lightfoot ‘has the votes’ to pass marijuana consumption ordinance, puts kibosh on 606 development freeze

“We have to have places for people to be able to legally consume marijuana,” Lightfoot says.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot meets with reporters on Friday for the first time in 2020.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Fran Spielman/Chicago Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday put the kibosh on a plan to freeze development along the 606 trail, but said she “has the votes” and will forge ahead with plans to create licensed places for on-site consumption of recreational marijuana.

The City Council’s License Committee will meet at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday to reconsider the mayoral on-site consumption plan that stalled this week because of rigid state rules that tied the city’s hands.

African American aldermen were concerned the mayor’s plan to limit consumption-on-premises licenses to retail tobacco stores that derive 80% of their revenue from the sale of tobacco-related products will pave the way for a new wave of drug arrests targeting their constituents because there are no free-standing smoke shops on the South and West sides.

Downtown aldermen said their constituents also don’t like the idea that the state is allowing consumption licenses and dispensaries to operate in the same building.

That could allow dispensaries to become, what Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) calls a “party magnet” with problems that “spill out onto the street” just like a “problem liquor establishment.”

On Friday, Lightfoot said the feedback she received from aldermen would be “taken into consideration.” But she argued that “we have to move forward” and promised no changes.

“We have to have places for people to be able to legally consume marijuana — particularly renters whose landlords are not gonna let them consume in their residences....We have to give people a legitimate place where they can go and consume without worries about being evicted or something happening to them on the street,” the mayor said.

“The first place to start and the obvious place to start is with the tobacco places. These will be separate rooms with separate ventilation. The votes are there. And we’ll bring it back up next week and get it done.”

The Housing Committee will also reconvene at 1 p.m. Tuesday to consider the plan championed by a pair of local aldermen to freeze residential development along the 606 trail for 14 months.

Aldermen Roberto Maldonado (26th) and Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) want to maintain the status quo to give the city time to devise a long-term solution to the gentrification that is forcing low-and moderate income families out of their homes.

Ramirez-Rosa had high hopes that a few minor tweaks would satisfy the mayor’s legal concerns.

But Lightfoot argued that the ordinance needs a major re-write.

“Fourteen months seems like an inordinately long time to me. ... We need to use a surgical knife and not a club,” she said.

“Stopping all demolitions — I don’t even know how we do that as a practical matter. And doing it in such a wide swath — I have concerns … about whether or not it would be viewed as a taking by property owners whose property would be affected. … Clearly displacement is a thing that challenges people in a lot of areas across the city. … But we’ve got to address it in a way that is…not gonna invite unnecessary litigation.”