On Jan. 1, 2020, recreational consumption, possession, and sales of cannabis products became legal in Illinois, though there were questions about where a person could actually consume such products, particularly in public places. Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, has put forth a proposal that would allow for the creation of licensed establishments in the city where people could smoke marijuana, and it could include premium cigar shops.
The proposed ordinance would create a new business license for what are formally known as cannabis consumption business establishments, which would be separate from licensed dispensaries, and which could be applied for by existing retail tobacco stores, defined as a business that derive more than 80% of its gross revenue from the sale of tobacco products. In practical terms, it means hookah lounges, tobacco specialty shops and cigar bars. However, a number of criteria must be met before a store could be licensed.
First, it must occupy a freestanding building occupied solely by the cannabis business establishment and outfitted with a proper ventilation system so that smoke from the establishment’s smoking area would not be allowed to migrate into an enclosed area where smoking is prohibited. It also must be outside of what is generally referred to as the city’s downtown core, and must be at least 500 feet from a school, as well as 500 feet from any other cannabis consumption business. There are also requirements for the installation of security cameras that are able to produce easily discernible images of those entering the establishment, as well as for on-site security personnel to be present.
Then there’s the $4,400 fee that must be paid for a two-year license for each individual location, provided that the applicants meet a number of qualifications.
The proposal received a hearing by the city council’s Licensing Committee on Wednesday but ultimately stalled as aldermen decided not to vote due to the absence of Ald. Gilbert Villegas, the mayor’s City Council floor leader. While there was no vote, opposition was expressed during the hearing, with some city leaders fearing that existing dispensaries would simply open a consumption establishment, which would turn into a source of neighborhood disruption. Others questioned just how such a business could be monetized if they were not allowed to sell cannabis, and why an existing business—such as a cigar lounge—would allow a non-paying customer to light up in their establishment.
Another committee hearing and vote could come as early as next week, which would advance it to the full council.