(date: October 7th, 2019)

With legal recreational marijuana on the horizon and dispensary applications recently released, business owners are scrambling to find an appropriate location. In September’s City Council meeting, Mayor Lori Lightfoot laid down a proposal that restricts where recreational cannabis dispensaries could operate in the city of Chicago:

  1. 500 feet from a school
  2. 1,500 feet from other dispensaries
  3. Located in appropriately zoned areas (commercial, business, or manufacturing)
    1. Cultivation centers would be restricted to manufacturing zones
  4. Not within a downtown “Cannabis Free Zone” bounded by Oak Street, Ida B. Wells Drive, LaSalle Street, the Chicago River, and Lake Michigan

The Mayor also divides the city into seven “Cannabis Zone Districts,” each containing a maximum of seven dispensaries, to ensure equal distribution and access throughout the city. That limit rises to 14 in May 2020.

This is rather hard to picture, but WBEZ compiled a useful interactive map that visualizes which areas are approved for cannabusiness, which are off-limits, and the locations of relevant establishments (i.e. schools and medical dispensaries).

You can view that map here.

These regulations are only proposals right now and will be up for discussion when the City Council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards meets on October 15th. Some Aldermen object to the prospect of a cannabis-free downtown, given that the proposed exclusion zone is the city’s economic driver. Facing an $838 million budget shortfall, Chicago might be better served by capitalizing on that business potential. On the other hand, opening downtown to cannabis businesses might compromise public safety and undermine the area’s touristic draw.

Rest assured, we’re following it closely and will be ready to help cannabusinesses across the city navigate Chicago’s complex and evolving regulations. Do you have plans to open a dispensary? Don’t proceed without experienced business attorneys by your side. Contact G & G Law for a complimentary consultation.


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Additionally, Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance under United States Federal Law and is therefore illegal in the United States. Any actions involving marijuana may violate federal law. G & G Law in no way condones or encourages illegal activities.