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Wait. What? The Tribune wants downtown cannabis sales

Friday, Sep 20, 2019

* Ladies and gentleman, the Chicago Tribune

This week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposed that marijuana dispensaries be allocated throughout the city, except not in downtown.

In explaining her decision, Lightfoot said she wants to keep the center of Chicago “family friendly.” The mayor also wants to assure that entrepreneurs from communities throughout the city, including the West and South sides, benefit financially. Lightfoot’s deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development, Samir Mayekar, told the Tribune, “From a public safety standpoint as the industry develops, it was best to exclude (downtown) from operations.” […]

The family-friendly vibe Lightfoot seeks to protect won’t be jeopardized by a small number of new legal businesses that aren’t so different in principle from liquor stores and bars, some of which operate on sidewalks. The city is careful about permitting liquor stores downtown rather than banning them. It can apply similar prudence to marijuana dispensaries. As for the mayor’s office’s broadly stated concern about public safety, that’s an issue across the city for different reasons in different neighborhoods. It’s hard to see how highly regulated cannabis sales exacerbate the challenges. […]

Certainly the idea of newly opened purveyors of sativa buds and the like might be jarring at first. Recreational marijuana sales will mark a new chapter in the city’s evolution. Chicago will need to find its comfort zone. Downtown should be part of the mix.

This is the same Tribune editorial board that complained constantly about how the cannabis legalization bill should be slowed down and saved for another time. Now they’re all about putting weed shops downtown.

Hey, I’ll take it. I ain’t complaining.

We talked about the “family friendly” silliness yesterday, but the “public safety” angle also deserves a look.

* Remember this story?

New research shows crime rates dropped substantially in areas with marijuana dispensaries, running counter to fears that pot shops drum up crime.

The mayor is either getting some very bad advice, or her gut is just wrong on this one.

* Related…

* Greg Hinz: Downtown is a Chicago neighborhood, too: Though Lightfoot may be tempted to forget it, downtown Chicago is home to 200,000 residents and the city’s jobs engine. Shorting those folks is a bad way to help needier areas of the city.

* Joe Cahill: Lightfoot’s no-toke zone makes no sense: The mayor wants to declare a potentially lucrative swath of Chicago off-limits to marijuana retailers. But why?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

30 Comments
  1. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 10:20 am:

    R. Bruce and Hurricane Kristen must be on vacation this week


  2. - TheInvisibleMan - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 10:23 am:

    Easy to understand.

    The Trib will take the opposite position of any democratic office holder. Lightfoot doesn’t want downtown cannabis sales, thus the Trib will advocate for them.

    They are the journalistic equivalent of a 4yr old child.


  3. - Amalia - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 10:29 am:

    talk to the joint, Mayor Lightfoot. either light up or leave me alone.


  4. - Unpopular - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 10:32 am:

    Mayor Lightfoot is getting good advice, and her instinct is exactly right on this. I hope she stays the course and understands that you don’t mind having a pig in the feedlot, but you would rather not have it in the parlor.


  5. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 10:37 am:

    Good for the Trib editorial board to realize that the old reefer madness fight lost, and we are embarking on a new world. It’s exactly right, that we allow alcohol downtown, so limited marijuana stores should not be a problem, a few stores.

    To wish the board will come around on the fair tax, that’s asking for more than too much.


  6. - SpfdNewb - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 10:41 am:

    TheInvisibleMan might be on to something about the trib, or the Mayor wants areas hit hardest to get the first crack next July? when new adult recreational shops are allowed to operate. This was discussed yesterday I believe.


  7. - Rich Miller - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 10:42 am:

    ===don’t mind having a pig in the feedlot, but you would rather not have it in the parlor===

    And that sort of comment is exactly why you were put in permanent moderation.

    Neighborhoods are pig feedlots. Nice analogy.


  8. - Ron Burgundy - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 10:48 am:

    Makes sense to be able to sell downtown. Some tourists are going to want it. Some commuters are going to want it. Why make it more difficult for them? Granted the tourists are gonna need a place to light up because the hotels sure won’t be thrilled.


  9. - A Jack - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 10:49 am:

    It makes sense that if you need revenue, you add shops where the most revenue is located. The Mayor is wrong on not having weed in the Loop. It will only encourage your friendly neighborhood Marijuana “street vendor” to move operations to the Loop. I suspect there will be many new street vendors hanging around festivals such as Taste of Chicago. This will be much worse than having a few discrete shops located in the Loop area.


  10. - West Side the Best Side - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 10:55 am:

    At least the Trib didn’t talk about casinos so they and I don’t have the same positions about gambling and pot in the same editorial. Think I’d have to change my position. As Joe Cahill mentions in his piece, banning downtown pot sales is not going to be an incentive to open a shop in Englewood. From a “public safety” point of view very few people would think of Englewood as a spot to go to purchase legal weed.


  11. - Bruce (no not him) - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 11:05 am:

    Of course they want it. Writer’s block easily remedied with a little reefer.


  12. - @misterjayem - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 11:13 am:

    It will only encourage your friendly neighborhood Marijuana “street vendor” to move operations to the Loop. But these “street vendors” will stay away from potential buyers in the Loop as long as there are no legitimate sellers in the Loop to meet that demand?

    Is *that* how markets work?

    – MrJM


  13. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 11:26 am:

    There’s enough for everybody in this new market, the neighborhoods and a few stores downtown.


  14. - Maryjane - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 11:46 am:

    A rhetorical question:

    Does the Mayor truly believe that not allowing legal Cannabis sales in the Loop exclusion zone, will in fact prevent Cannabis sales and use in that area? And does she actually believe that legal Cannabis retailers will be more detrimental to the “family friendly” atmosphere there than the current Cannabis vendors in business there today?


  15. - Anon E Moose - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 11:51 am:

    Ron Burgundy brings up a good point. Where are the tourists going to smoke? They can’t do it in their hotel (I think its even prohibited on hotel balconies). They can’t smoke in the park or at the beach. Am I missing something?


  16. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 11:54 am:

    “will be more detrimental to the “family friendly” atmosphere”

    And downtown is supposed to be more “family-friendly” than neighborhoods? What are the neighborhoods, chopped liver? Sometimes Lightfoot really steps in it. On this issue, I’m with the Trib.


  17. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 11:58 am:

    ==Writer’s block easily remedied with a little reefer. ==

    The editorial board wants their supply close at hand.


  18. - Money is the answer - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 12:09 pm:

    Trib editorial board answers to moneyed interests, as they always do. Now that it is fair game for legitimate businesses to make bank off of it, they want to make the most money possible. A downtown dispensary would make money hand over fist, and the real estate owners would be able to charge exorbitant rents to such businesses.


  19. - Skeptic - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 12:15 pm:

    Seems to me, a good part of what makes smoking weed “unfamily unfriendly” is (was) the fact that it’s (for a little while longer at least) illegal. Once it becomes legal, I don’t see it being any more unfriendly than your conventional tobacco-based joint. (That’s not to say first- or second-hand smoke of any kind isn’t dangerous of course.) And while I get the sentiment that you don’t want a Bunch of Vagabond Winos [dibs on the band name] drinking out of brown paper bags at the corner of Michigan and Wacker, I don’t think the reefer equivalent of that is even a concern.


  20. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 12:30 pm:

    If they’re not going to have dispensaries downtown, there should be tours to neighborhood dispensaries for downtown tourists, as well as nearby dispensaries. It looks like Chicago will have social consumption businesses. This new marijuana industry has great potential.


  21. - A Jack - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 12:40 pm:

    I would argue that no Loop dispensaries is less family friendly. It is an open invitation for illegal vendors to prey upon tourists.

    Imagine if you will, a tourist asking a dude hanging out on the corner where the closest dispensary is located. The dude says “Well you can catch the train to Englewood or I can sell you a dime bag here.” The bag may contain real legal marijuana from a dispensary, but more likely something from an illegal grower, or possibly even oregano. Creating illegal markets is not family friendly.


  22. - njt - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 12:41 pm:

    I can empathize with Lightfoot’s position i.e. wanting to drive economic benefit to underserved communities. What the administration is missing is the basic purpose of a dispensary. A dispensary is just a new Starbucks, at its core the company is a real estate play.

    All dispensaries will be located like coffee shops, near high foot traffic, transit hubs, etc… Limiting their location limits their revenue potential. What can be done is constraining operational/growth sides to the business. Want a downtown pot shop? Show us the five grow plants you’ve built in the South Side and how many employees live in those neighborhoods. This allows the dispensary to capitalize on real estate while the company can drive real economic growth with its operational/supply chain investments.


  23. - Jocko - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 12:57 pm:

    Chicago should take a page from Amsterdam and open up “Dutch Coffeeshops”…hopefully ones with a HEPA air filtration system. That way tourists (and residents) can partake without bothering anyone. Edibles are also an option.


  24. - Rod - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 1:02 pm:

    I do not believe that the real motivation for not allowing marijuana dispensaries in the loop has anything to do with being family friendly. It is really an attempt to drive sales outside of the center city to full fill commitments made by the Mayor to lower income communities about benefiting from these sales. She has said in the past exactly that, but it is very unlikely convention visitors or tourists are going to go to low income communities to buy marijuana. The Tribune is very sensible in this situation arguing for revenue generation.


  25. - Dotnonymous - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 1:08 pm:

    How many more small towns will cut off their nose to spite their face?…I wonder.


  26. - Suburban Mom - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 1:28 pm:

    “The Trib will take the opposite position of any democratic office holder. Lightfoot doesn’t want downtown cannabis sales, thus the Trib will advocate for them.”

    Yep. As Cleek’s Law has it, contemporary conservatism can be defined as opposing whatever Democrats support, updated daily. Democrats wanted pot, Tribune didn’t. Lightfoot wants pot out of the CBD, Tribune is suddenly in favor. No mystery here.


  27. - Enviro - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 1:40 pm:

    The mayor could be concerned about increased crime in the tourist area of Chicago

    “Despite growing political and cultural momentum in its favor, legalizing marijuana has unintended economic and social consequences. States beginning to consider full legalization would be wise to take a critical look at the increased rates of violent crime in Colorado, Washington, and the District of Columbia.”

    https://thehill.com/opinion/criminal-justice/430551-is-marijuana-legalization-driving-increases-in-violent-crime


  28. - Mon2479 - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 1:40 pm:

    I cant believe all of this old school thinking on cannabis. It was not like this in WA state. I can say with confidence that everything will be ok. Those who want to chill out and light up will and those who dont want to, wont. After a few years, this whole subject will be normal and no longer taboo for us.

    As far as tourist not being able to light up……that’s where edibles come in.


  29. - El Conquistador - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 1:49 pm:

    I routinely say that after weed is legal everyone will be a democrat by Xmas. Among other benefits, it helps to kill the bug up conservatives back side…


  30. - Paying Attention - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 3:35 pm:

    lack of stores don’t mean lack of consumption. mayor seems to be trying an interesting approach to spread the stores away from the already robust central business district.

    doesn’t mean at all tourists downtown can’t get the product, if everything works right.


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