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Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Norwood Park

Jefferson Park Weed Dispensary Zoning Change Gets City Council’s OK After Months Of Delays

City Council passed the expansion 31-19 despite calls for another delay from members of the Black Caucus.

Columbia Care, at 4758 N. Milwaukee Ave., wants to expand to a neighboring storefront.
Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago
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JEFFERSON PARK — The City Council approved the zoning change for a Jefferson Park cannabis dispensary Wednesday after months of delays.

The dispensary now needs a Special Use Permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals before it can move ahead with its expansion. The zoning change was a prerequisite to obtaining that approval.

The expansion for Columbia Care’s dispensary at 4758 N. Milwaukee Ave. to the neighboring storefront at 4760 N. Milwaukee Ave., which received zoning approval in February, passed with a vote of 31-19 after a lengthy discussion about equity concerns from members of the Black Caucus.

The caucus has fought to delay all dispensary zoning changes and expansions until a state law is passed to allow more dispensary licenses aimed to boost minority ownership. The House approved a bill in the General Assembly that paves the way for more social equity dispensary licenses, but it still needs Senate approval.

Black Caucus Chair Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), who failed in his attempt to delay all cannabis sales in Chicago in 2020 because there are no Black-owned dispensaries, asked the council to vote against the Jefferson Park expansion and wait until the state Legislature passes the law.

But ultimately members voted in favor of the expansion. It’s expected to create about $2.4 million in annual tax revenue, said Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th), whose ward includes the dispensary and who has pushed for its expansion for months.

Gardiner said Columbia Care’s expansion is “a business that will bring some life to a depressed corridor in Jefferson Park.”

He agreed there needs to be more equity in the cannabis industry but said the tax revenue the expansion will provide is more important and could help avoid another uptick of property taxes for residents.

“We have a business that is willing and able to pay those taxes happily, instead of waiting and relying on residents’ backs to say, ‘Hey, it’s up to you to make up for years of reckless spending the city has made,'” Gardiner said.

While most of the Black Caucus voted against the expansion, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) voted in favor because it’s not a new license — but said he will continue to fight to have a Black-owned dispensary in the city.

“We can take a stand as City Council to say no more cannabis licenses until we see fit … but taking a stand on an expansion in [Gardiner’s] ward is wrong,” Beale said.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), Zoning and Building Standards Committee chair, who delayed the final vote on the measure for three months, voted in favor as well, saying enough discussions have happened.

“If we wait for the state Legislature, we will be paralyzed as a city,” Tunney said.

Jefferson Park neighbors hoped the expansion would get approved after considerable delays. Columbia Care has yet to apply for a Special Use Permit, according to a city spokesperson of Planning and Development.

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the dispensary expansion had been approved. The approval process is ongoing.