After a heated debate, Chicago's City Council on Wednesday voted against a measure that would have delayed the legal sale of recreational marijuana in the city until July 1, six months after the drug becomes legal across Illinois.
The City Council’s Committee on Contracting Equity and Oversight passed the measure Tuesday by a vote of 10-9, sending it to the full council for consideration.
The measure was denied Wednesday by a vote of 19 to 29, enabling sales of recreational marijuana in the city to begin as planned on Jan. 1.
In a statement, the Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus had voiced its support of the delay, proposed to give time to address a lack of black and Latino-owned dispensaries.
“What we have seen here today is one step in the right direction,” the group said in a statement. “We are going to continue to work together and push for equity. In addition, we are looking forward to continue having ongoing discussions with the state and city. We thank our communities for providing their support and being partners with us throughout these conversations.”
The state’s bill legalizing cannabis included several provisions designed to provide minority-owned businesses access to the industry. The bill also allowed for the expungement of some drug-based criminal records and established funds for restoration grants.
Despite those provisions, officials and activists have remained concerned about minority access to the industry. Recreational marijuana is set to become legal in the state of Illinois on Jan. 1, and a total of 10 dispensaries have been given licenses to sell recreational marijuana. According to 28th Ward Alderman Jason Ervin, none of those dispensaries are minority-owned.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has proposed a city-owned cannabis growing cooperative, which she says would give minorities a bigger stake in the expected multi-million dollar cannabis business. She came out against the delay Tuesday.
"Delaying sales will have a multitude of unintended consequences, including fueling illegal sales, placing the start of a new industry at the same time when our full public safety resources must be dedicated to combatting summer violence, and most importantly, stripping money from the social equity funds intended to benefit Black and Brown entrepreneurs," her statement read in part.
Cannabis advocates, as well as some owners pursuing state licensing, also pushed back against the proposed delay, saying that it’s important the city be ready to participate in legalization on Jan 1.
Others, including former Illinois Deputy Governor Louanner Peters, were in favor of the delay.
“It’s an unlevel market for those already in the market,” she said.