Mayor Lori Lightfoot has fired Paul Stewart, her top cannabis adviser and assistant deputy mayor, though it’s still unclear what led to his ouster.
“Mr. Stewart is no longer an employee at the Mayor’s Office. As this is a personnel matter, we will not be commenting any further,” Pat Mullane, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, said in a statement Tuesday.
A City Hall source told the Sun-Times that Stewart was “shocked” when the news came down Monday that he was fired. Stewart didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
He officially began his tenure in the administration as the state’s prohibition on pot was lifted in January, according to his LinkedIn page.
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But Stewart was already serving as a cannabis policy adviser in the months before that milestone, when Lightfoot’s plan to ban all cannabis sales in much of the Central Business District came under heavy fire and the Black Caucus threatened to delay recreational pot sales over the lack of minority ownership in the nascent industry. Stewart also helped oversee Lightfoot’s controversial cannabis lottery in November, which broadly determined where the city’s first recreational shops could open.
The announcement of his firing comes just three days after the Zoning Board of Appeals rejected a proposal for a new recreational pot shop near the Gold Coast during a marathon 12-hour meeting. A source said that decision had nothing to do with his ouster.
Ald. Brian Hopkins, who formally opposed the location in his 2nd Ward, acknowledged that PharmaCann’s application was “controversial and politically charged.”
“Paul Stewart was in the hot seat and throughout he conducted himself with unwavering professionalism at all times,” added Hopkins.
Stewart previously served as a consultant and later joined the Chicago Police Department in 2018 to help coordinate initiatives related to the implementation of the ongoing federal consent decree that was put in place following the killing of Laquan McDonald.