Proposed delay of recreational pot sales in Chicago fails in heated City Council vote

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CHICAGO — Sales of recreational marijuana in Chicago will begin as planned January 1, when it becomes legal statewide, after a City Council ordinance attempting to delay it was voted down Wednesday.

Backed by members of the Aldermanic Black Caucus, the proposal would have prohibited recreational pot sales in the city until July over concerns about minority participation.

The 11 pot dispensaries set to sell recreational marijuana in Chicago are all white-owned, and caucus members argued minorities haven't had a fair shot at securing dispensary licenses.

During the meeting, Alderman Walter Burnett (27th Ward) battled an angry spectator, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot locked horns with Black Caucus Chairman Alderman Jason Ervin (28th Ward). He and most of the caucus members voted to pump the breaks.

While watching the hearing online, Illinois Deputy Governor Christian Mitchell wrote on Twitter that the law is the “most equity centric” in the country, and said he was stunned, “at the level of ignorance and the number of falsehoods” coming from aldermen.

After hours of heated debate and procedural maneuvering, Lightfoot brought the measure to a vote and defeated the delay 29-19, with help from black allies. Afterwards, some of the bad feelings spilled into the media briefing area.

"We were railroaded to make sure that blacks don’t get a piece of this," said Alderman Anthony Beale (9th Ward).

Mayor Lori Lightfoot downplayed the dust-up.

"I don’t think this was about me and them," Lightfoot said. "We all support the notion that we must have equity that’s what I ran on, that’s what I talk about virtually every time that I make a public statement. We spent since October working with members of the Black Caucus trying to address their concerns."

After the meeting Ervin changed his tune, talking up a deal he struck with Governor Pritzker.

"Two of the five additional licenses that were slated for the city of Chicago will work through the social equity process," Ervin said.

Governor Pritzker continues to ask the aldermen and other leaders to trust him.

"Our state carefully crafted and equity-centric bill, the only one really," Pritzker said.

On January 1, the city’s medical cannabis dispensaries will be allowed to pivot to recreational sales and open a second location. The minority assistance program kicks off in late spring.

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