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Legal pot ‘peddlers’ should be allowed to sell at farmer’s markets, on street corners, black activists say

Violence interrupter Tio Hardiman said the creation of a a special license that would allow sales in public could “ease some of the conflict with the illegal drug trade.”

Tio Hardiman and his allies propose a “peddlers license” that would allow marijuana businesses to sell the drug in public.
Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

A group of community activists led by violence interrupter Tio Hardiman called on lawmakers Wednesday to permit the sale of legal pot in public places as a way to bolster minority participation in the city’s overwhelmingly white cannabis industry.

Hardiman claimed the creation of a “peddler’s license” that would allow businesses to sell weed at farmer’s markets or out of trucks could help “ease some of the conflict with the illegal drug trade” and in effect combat gun violence.

“This way you can take the criminal element out of [selling marijuana] and allow these young guys to make some legal money. And then you can help reduce unemployment in the African American community,” Hardiman said during a press conference in front of The Herbal Care Center, a Near West Side pot shop.

The proposal, however, doesn’t jive with some of the state’s strict regulations for selling weed. There are a limited number of dispensaries statewide, which must employ security staff, scan the IDs of all visitors and log every sale into a system monitored by state regulators.

Hardiman claimed the new businesses would keep a “paper trail,” likening the potential operations to tech startups like Grubhub or Uber that use mobile apps and log transactions. But unlike those services, which accept debit or credit cards, the vast majority of pot shops only accept cash.

The offices of Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued statements that didn’t directly address Hardiman’s proposal.

Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh noted that legal cannabis is currently only sold by licensed dispensaries “to ensure that products are regulated and safe.”

But she said new dispensary, craft grow, infuser and transportation licenses will be issued in the coming months. So-called social equity candidates, who have cannabis offenses on their records or live in areas ravaged by the drug war, will get a leg up in the application process.

Pat Mullane said the mayor is committed to ensuring that all Chicagoans, especially those from “disadvantaged communities,” have the ability to “benefit from jobs and economic opportunity created by the newly legalized cannabis industry.”

Mullane noted that the city will host a cannabis resource fair Feb. 1 at the UIC Forum to encourage industry stakeholders “to reach back into the community to involve local residents.”

Nevertheless, Hardiman and his allies are looking for immediate action and are planning protests if the new licensing category isn’t created. That includes potentially demonstrating at February’s NBA All-Star Game at the United Center.

“It’s either cut us in or cut it out,” he said.