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You can’t know if something works until you test it

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020

* Tribune

Despite previously saying she had the City Council votes and wanted to move forward on a plan to allow people to smoke weed in Chicago tobacco shops, Mayor Lori Lightfoot will not present the ordinance to the City Council this week, her administration said Tuesday.

The mayor’s team will head to Springfield to try to get state lawmakers to make several changes to the laws governing where people can publicly smoke cannabis, which could delay the implementation for several months or longer as the amendments make their way through the legislature.

That will leave many Chicagoans without anywhere to legally smoke weed they purchase in dispensaries, since landlords can prohibit tenants from smoking in the apartments they rent and smoking is not legal on sidewalks or in cars. […]

Lightfoot’s City Council floor leader, Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th, said aldermen raised “a whole bunch of concerns” about the way the state rules and the mayor’s plan were designed. It could take until February or March at the earliest before state lawmakers act on those changes, Villegas said.

“At the earliest” is right. Lawmakers rarely favor reopening laws they just passed unless it’s for technical changes. That’s what they did with cannabis in November and it’s one reason why the mayor’s casino bill went nowhere during the veto session.

Easing the public consumption laws by lowering the start-up fees, expanding the cigar bar alternative, deleting the 1500-feet between shops mandate, etc. could take a lot of time or never pass. Remember, the bill passed last year because it didn’t have those things. The taxes fund the program, lots of legislators feared looser public consumption rules and they absolutely didn’t want to create dense cannabis shop clusters like they’ve had in Denver and California.

This is how the Statehouse works. Pretty much the only way to pass a sweeping new law is to load it up with restrictions or tack on a sunset date to convince the squeamish to go along - and there’s a lot of squeamish people in the General Assembly. And then they wait to see if all heck breaks loose before easing up a bit.

Think about the civil unions path toward marriage equality. There have been exceptions (death penalty abolition being one), but those exceptions tend to prove the rule.

* I’m not saying that Chicago can’t possibly make some changes. But the city needs to stop delaying its own local actions while it places demands on the state legislature that a majority of legislators are super-reluctant to pass so soon.

Thankfully, Mayor Lightfoot also said today that she plans to bring the cigar bar expansion ordinance to the floor next week, because, as mentioned in the headline, the only way legislators can see if something works or doesn’t work at the local level is if locals go ahead and try it out (and that goes for the casino as well). /rant

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Jan 14, 20 @ 12:50 pm:

    Agree with the rant. Great point also about many Chicago residents themselves needing a place to smoke because of their landlords not allowing it—not just tourists.

    Hopefully cigar bar expansion will happen in the near future. I’ve been to many coffeeshops in Amsterdam and didn’t see any problems (not that they don’t happen). Granted Chicago is not Amsterdam, but it’s marijuana, not alcohol.

  2. - High Times Low Standards - Tuesday, Jan 14, 20 @ 1:16 pm:

    And so it goes….once you get it passed, then it will get more and more open. Until we look back 50 years from now and realize the public health disaster that was unleashed on the public by money hungry politicians who care little for the public and mostly about themselves.

  3. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 14, 20 @ 1:21 pm:

    ===the public health disaster that was unleashed===

    I see the years of government propaganda and indoctrination worked.

  4. - Charlie Brown - Tuesday, Jan 14, 20 @ 1:31 pm:

    The issue here seems to be not that it won’t work, but that it
    Might not work as well as the aldermen would like in all fifty wards on every block in every case.

    This is partly about the loss of aldermanic prerogative, a system that relied on very loose regulatory rules and then gave aldermen the final say over specific cases.

    They would probably love a system that said smoke shops could be anywhere in Chicago with the alderman’s blessing, and that ain’t happening.

  5. - Donnie Elgin - Tuesday, Jan 14, 20 @ 1:31 pm:

    King to Taylor ” Go ahead, old man. Smoke it”

  6. - BC - Tuesday, Jan 14, 20 @ 2:11 pm:

    @Charlie Brown makes a good point.

    If individual alderman knew they had more of a final say on what went into their ward, they’d be much less likely to nitpick the mayor’s proposed ordinance. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of good arguments to roll back aldermanic prerogative. But without aldermanic prerogative, city council members behave more like legislators and less like the mini-mayor of their ward. That makes it harder for the mayor to pass her agenda.

  7. - Maryjane - Tuesday, Jan 14, 20 @ 2:32 pm:

    I would think the Alderfolk in my area (NW) would prioritize filling empty storefronts; which tend to look blighty imo. That said, I don’t see much reason for me to visit a smoke lounge unless it also had a cool (hippie/alternative)bookstore and live music; coffee would also be nice. If the only draw is looking at other people vaping and smoking I can skip it; of course I’m old, ha ha.

  8. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Jan 14, 20 @ 2:42 pm:

    I agree with Rich…give it a try…and then apply common sense…Sounds so easy,eh?

    Coffee and cannabis make a lovely pair…if you ask me.

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