The Chicago City Council’s Committee on Contracting Equity and Oversight has passed a bill that would delay the legal sale of marijuana in the city until July 1 due to a lack of black and Latino-owned dispensaries.
By a 10-9 vote, the committee approved the measure on Tuesday afternoon, and the full City Council could vote on the measure Wednesday.
In a statement, the Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus voiced its support of the delay.
“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.
Cannabis advocates, as well as some owners pursuing state licensing, are pushing 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, are in favor of the delay.
“It’s an unlevel market for those already in the market,” she said.
Lightfoot could potentially delay the vote using procedural maneuvers, or could veto the bill if the full City Council passes it during their session on Wednesday.