Zoning Change to Create More Marijuana Business Opportunities in Chicago

By opening more of downtown Chicago to pot shops, the city hopes that more minority businesses owners can get in on the lucrative business of marijuana.

September 9, 2021, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


ShutterstockProfessional / Shutterstock

"Aldermen advanced Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposal Wednesday to ease Chicago zoning rules to open marijuana dispensaries," reports John Byrne.

The zoning changes would open a broader swath of downtown to marijuana businesses. Mayor Lightfoot is pushing the changes to "make it easier for minority applicants get into a lucrative business now dominated locally by white-owned companies," according to Byrnes.

The city's current zoning for marijuana businesses, first proposed in 2019, prohibits marijuana businesses in most of the city's downtown, stretching all the way to the River North neighborhood. The changes would shrink that prohibition to a small area of the city’s center, including Michigan Avenue in downtown, the South Loop, and the area approaching Navy Pier from Michigan Avenue.

"Dozens of license holders in a first round of state marijuana license approvals opted to open in the suburbs, because the zoning process is easier in surrounding towns than in Chicago," according to a city source cited by Byrnes. "[T]he hope is that allowing dispensaries to operate on more prime real estate will give minority cannabis license owners better opportunities to get their businesses up and running in Chicago."

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