CHICAGO —Friday for a couple lucky pot companies, Christmas came early.
Anxious pot operators packed City Hall for the cannabis zone district lottery. It allows them the choice of the most lucrative location to sell recreational cannabis in Chicago.
Beginning January 1, Illinois adults can legally light up and demand to get high is expected to be high.
Chicago area medical dispensaries will be the first locations allowed to sell recreational cannabis.
Friday’s lottery allowed the operators to choose a second site.
“It was really a unique thing to be part of a lottery like this,” Doug Marks of MOCA LLC said. “As far as I’m aware nothing like this has ever taken place before.”
Joe Caltabiano Cresco Labs drew the first pick and chose the highly coveted Central Business District, the and entertainment corridor which includes River North and the Gold Coast.
Caltabianao said it’s a gold mine.
“We were number one and we’re very excited to be the first pick of the inaugural lottery here in Chicago,” he said. “We think that’s most important district that’s available in the city. Certainly they put some framework around where we can be but the entertainment corridor of River North, Gold Coast area is where I think all the tax dollars are spent.”
The operators snatched up the downtown area first, then picked the North Side and West Loop.
Chicago will have seven cannabis zones. Each zone will be allowed up to seven dispensaries with an increase to 14 in May.
The Cannabis Zoning Ordinance prohibits recreational dispensaries from opening in some parts of the Central District. The boundaries of the exclusion zone run from Division Street to Lake Michigan to Van Buren Street. The western boundary is State Street in River North and the South Branch of the Chicago River in the Loop.
Some aldermen are worried about diversity. The Black Caucus threatened to hold up zoning approval due to the lack of diversity among dispensary owners. But Mayor Lori Lightfoot is promising equity.
Exact locations for the dispensaries were not revealed. Operators admit it’s not likely they’ll be able to open on January 1. But they’ll get going in about four to six months.