CHICAGO (CBS) — A License Committee and full City Council vote has been delayed on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposal to allow on-site consumption of marijuana at licensed cigar bars, hookah lounges, and other tobacco shops.
There will not be a vote coming on the plan this week.
“We continue to receive helpful feedback on our proposed consumption ordinance, and in order to take that into account we have opted for a short delay in moving our proposed ordinance forward,” said Mayor’s Office Press Secretary Anel Ruiz.
The measure would require a business to make more than 80% of its gross revenues from the sale of tobacco products and smoking accessories in order to allow on-site consumption of marijuana.
A shop also would have to be located in a standalone building with sufficient ventilation to prevent smoke from reaching non-smoking areas. They also would have to be at least 500 feet away from schools and any other business licensed for cannabis consumption.
The initial motivation for allowing on-site consumption was to allow renters and Chicago Housing Authority public housing residents, who might not be allowed to use marijuana in their own homes, an opportunity to do so in a state-sanctioned place.
Ruiz noted there are many questions that remain about how on-site consumption could be permitted, and additional changes are still expected when it comes to state rules. The Lightfoot administration is also working to make changes to other cannabis-related regulations, particularly when it comes to zoning.
On Wednesday of last week, the Licensing Committee spent an hour discussing the mayor’s proposed ordinance before ending the meeting without a vote. License Committee vice chairman Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who was chairing the meeting, said he didn’t want to call a vote without the mayor’s floor leader, Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) present.
While Villegas and Hopkins both said they believe there are enough votes to approve the mayor’s pot consumption ordinance, Hopkins said some aldermen are concerned that the measure would effectively open the door to turning the city’s existing marijuana dispensaries into party dens.
Although marijuana dispensaries would not be allowed to permit on-site pot consumption, Hopkins said some aldermen worry dispensaries could open up a tobacco shop next door or across the street to give their pot customers a place to light up, and not worry if the tobacco shop itself actually made a profit.
“Then it becomes a party magnet. Then it spills out onto the street. Then it becomes a problem just like a problem liquor establishment would be,” Hopkins said.
While the mayor’s office has said it is waiting until new recreational marijuana dispensary licenses are issued in May — to make sure there is sufficient minority ownership of pot businesses — before introducing a plan to allow on-site consumption at marijuana businesses, Hopkins said most aldermen oppose allowing weed smokers to light up at dispensaries.
“We wouldn’t have consumption licenses present anywhere near dispensaries. That was the clear will of the body today,” Hopkins said Wednesday. “People would support a dispensary as long as you couldn’t actually use the product there, and if we tell them we’re going to allow this dispensary, but next year they might come back and seek a consumption on premises license, people would not really trust us. It would sound like a shell game, where we’re going to get that dispensary out there, and then the next thing you know there’s a cannabis den in that location.”
Reilly on Wednesday questioned how tobacco businesses would be able to make money off allowing customers to use marijuana in their shops, given that the on-site consumption license will cost $4,400, they will have to pay for expensive ventilation systems, and will still have to make at least 80% of their revenue from tobacco products and accessories.
He said he’s worried that some tobacco shops would turn to black market marijuana sales to make a profit if they opt for a consumption license.