CITY HALL — Existing medicinal cannabis dispensaries would not need a new city permit before selling cannabis for recreational use, according to rules proposed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Entrepreneurs who are looking to open new shops for recreational sales next year will have to present their plans to the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, the same process dispensaries have had to go through since they got the go-ahead for medicinal sales in 2015, according to city officials.
But owners of the 11 dispensaries that already sell products containing THC to approved patients in Chicago would only be required to take one step before earning the city’s blessing for recreational sales: submitting evidence to the zoning board that they’ve notified all property owners within 250 feet of the change.
The proposal Lightfoot unveiled on Tuesday would need to be approved by the City Council to take effect. It has already drawn criticism from some aldermen, including Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), who objected to Lightfoot’s proposal to bar recreational sales from the Loop and the Magnificent Mile shopping district
Lightfoot said the exclusion zone was added in order to keep tourist-packed areas “family-friendly,” but Reilly said some shops would need to be marketed to tourists in order for cannabis sales to be a “successful revenue play” for the city.
The ordinance is set to be considered next month by the City Council zoning committee, officials said.
Under the state law signed this summer by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, existing medicinal dispensaries got first crack at applying with the state’s Department of Financial and Professional Regulation for licenses to sell recreational cannabis. State applications for new recreational dispensaries will become available on Oct. 1.
The Zoning Board of Appeals was scheduled to hear an application on Friday for the dispensary MedMar Lakeview to move down the street from its existing Wrigleyville location to a larger space at 3524 N. Clark St.
In late 2015, when MedMar’s owners were seeking approval to open one of the state’s first medicinal dispensaries, Chief Security Officer John Sullivan told Lakeview neighbors that he would “absolutely not” consider opening the facility to recreational sales if it became legal.
But that was before cannabis company Cresco Labs bought the dispensary this spring. Cresco intends to open the 5,000-square-foot facility up to recreational sales after the new law takes effect next year, according to spokesperson Jason Erkes.
Cresco and other players in the burgeoning industry are “window shopping” for new locations, but companies are waiting for the city to iron out the zoning regulations before they make official moves, Erkes said.
Erkes also said he hopes the city ultimately allow pot sales Downtown.
“We’d like cannabis to be accessible to where people shop, where people work and where they come to stay from out of town, and it’s unfortunate to see that there’s a stigma associated with cannabis” in Lightfoot’s plan, Erkes said.