The chairman of the Black Caucus says they will introduce an ordinance today that would halt the planned sale of legal marijuana for six months next year.
The 19 members of the City Council’s Black Caucus threatened to prevent citywide recreational cannabis sales from starting until July over concerns that no people of color will be among the owners of the businesses allowed to sell cannabis when it’s legalized Jan. 1.
Caucus chairman Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) bemoaned the lack of minority participation in the nascent pot industry as he presented a potential nuclear option for negotiations. “With this current plan, there will undoubtedly be economic loss and opportunities for African Americans,” Ervin said in a statement. “There is currently zero African American participation among the 11 existing dispensaries — who will get the first shot at the market during the first year of legalization.” He said the aldermen will introduce an ordinance at the City Council meeting Wednesday that would delay the legalization of recreational pot use in the state’s biggest potential market until July 1 “and use this time to find more equitable solutions.” Ervin’s statement came after Tuesday’s Zoning Committee was brought to a two-hour halt as members of the Black Caucus met privately to discuss Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s latest zoning proposal covering where legal pot shops will be able to operate. Representatives from the mayor’s office and other aldermen ultimately met with caucus members in behind the scenes meetings that culminated in a series of changes to the plan, which would make the proposed downtown “exclusion zone” even smaller and give aldermen more control over pot zoning.
The resistance from the Black Caucus was rooted in members’ wariness that the existing operators of medical marijuana facilities in Illinois will get a huge leg up when recreational sales start on Jan. 1, an advantage that will last for months or longer before other operators are allowed to sell pot.
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