CHICAGO (CBS) — Cannabis business representatives said they were caught off guard and disappointed after a City Council committee approved an ordinance that would delay recreational marijuana sales in Chicago until July.
The proposal by Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), who chairs the City Council Black Caucus, was approved by the Committee on Contracting Equity and Oversight by a vote of 10-9.
The Black Caucus is upset that the 11 existing medical marijuana companies in Chicago that will be allowed to immediately begin recreational sales on Jan. 1 are owned almost exclusively by white men. They also argue that state law does not include sufficient standards to assure African Americans and Hispanics benefit from the recreational marijuana industry, even though minorities were most hurt by the decades-long war on drugs.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has already called the move an unacceptable tactic. On Wednesday, political theatre is expected to unfold on the subject as the full City Council meets.
Meanwhile, as CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported, recreational pot sales are already set to roll out across the state with only about two weeks to go until Jan. 1.
Jeremy Unruh is the director of public and regulatory affairs for the dispensary PharmaCann.
“We have four dispensaries in and around the Chicagoland area,” he said.
PharmaCann does not currently operate within the city. But Unruh did say a delay in the city would hurt the existing businesses that do.
“I think that really hurts the existing 11 dispensaries in the city of Chicago, because they’re the ones who will be barred from actually operating these adult-use dispensaries in the city,” he said.
Pam Althoff, executive director of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois, said she was disappointed by the legislative action on Tuesday.
“This did surprise us,” she said. “This was not anticipated.”
Althoff continued: “We have the city of Chicago making an attempt to stop an industry; a new program; a new opportunity, before it has opportunity to move forward, and to be tested, and to be rolled out.”
A not-happy Mayor Lightfoot said delaying sales will have negative unintended consequences, and would take money away from social equity funds and programs intended on helping minorities gain entry into the business.
.@chicagosmayor responds to committee vote to delay recreational pot sales, warns of "multitude of unintended consequences" and accuses Black Caucus of offering "litany of complaints, but no tangible solutions" regarding a lack of minority participation in legal pot industry. pic.twitter.com/Ge8NKAfAGD
— CBS Chicago (@cbschicago) December 18, 2019
A six-month delay could mean a $5 million loss for the city.
Lightfoot’s floor leader believes the Black Caucus could have the votes to pass the six-month delay on Wednesday.
But insiders expect some political maneuvering that would delay the vote until after the New Year.