JOHN BYRNE Chicago Tribune
Aldermen advanced Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposal Wednesday to ease Chicago zoning rules to open marijuana dispensaries, which the mayor says would make it easier for minority applicants get into a lucrative business now dominated locally by white-owned companies.
Lightfoot’s plan would open up much more of the downtown area to allow marijuana businesses to set up shop.
Under the new proposal, only a small area of the city’s center would continue to exclude dispensaries, including Michigan Avenue downtown and in the South Loop, plus a stretch approaching Navy Pier from Michigan.
Current rules exclude a much bigger part of downtown stretching up into River North.
City analyst Will Shih told the Zoning Committee the 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.
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, Shih said.
Amid pushback Wednesday from Zoning Committee members worried the mayor’s new ordinance would not go far enough to protect the interests of Black and Latino