Despite pressures on all sides, mayor Lori Lightfoot refuses to budge on selling recreational marijuana in downtown Chicago. Her goal is to wall off the downtown area from sales of the drug, citing it as a matter of public safety and fairness. The mayor’s opinions likely stem from her time as a former federal prosecutor and as the Police Board President.
The exclusion zone would go from Oak Street to Ida B. Wells Drive and from Lake Michigan to LaSalle Street in River North and to the Chicago River in the Loop.
“There’s a misnomer on the part of people who aren’t in that business that this is gonna be some huge economic windfall for the city. The truth is, our estimates are that we may get $10 million annually … [That’s a] pretty small amount …The city’s piece of this is only three percent,” the mayor said, according to the Chicago Sun Times.
Aldermen in the city disagree, arguing that the city can’t afford to close off the area where most people work, live, and play. In a city trying to close a budget gap of $838 million, leaving out the places where tourists and conventioneers spend most of their money seems reckless.
The mayor pointed out that none of the 11 medical marijuana dispensaries currently operating in the city are in that zone. These dispensaries will have a stark lead against competition once stores begin to open on January 1.
While others see a terrible waste, she see the opportunity to create the opportunity to spread the new wealth over all parts of the city for a modest loss. This falls in line with her campaign promise to help the impoverished South and Westside neighborhoods.