Jefferson Park marijuana dispensary OK’d following months of delays; City Council Black Caucus concerned about lack of minority ownership of Chicago dispensaries
by BRIAN NADIG
The Chicago City Council at its May 26 meeting voted 31-19 to approve the proposed expansion of the Columbia Care marijuana dispensary at 4758 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Jefferson Park to a neighboring storefront after months of delays.
The proposal had been held up since February due to concerns from the 20-member City Council Black Caucus about the lack of minority ownership in the marijuana industry in the city.
Alderman James Gardiner (45th) had agreed to have the vote delayed in February and March but sought approval in April. However, the council voted 26 to 24 not to call the measure up at the time.
Gardiner has said last month that further delays will continue to cost the city revenue, as the expansion he said is expected to generate an additional $1 million in taxes a year.
“We should be looking to generate revenue from flourishing industries that are able and willing to pay more taxes such as the marijuana industry instead of looking for ways to place that burden on the backs of residents. … That’s why I voted ‘no’ the last two years on raising property taxes,” Gardiner said.
“I’m willing to help negotiate between Columbia and the caucus, but the Black Caucus has not come with an ask” as to what it would want Columbia to do, Gardiner said last month. “I understand the concerns about the need for minority ownership in the industry, … but this is an existing business.”
Gardiner added that Columbia has a good track record of operating in Chicago, has hired a diverse workforce and demonstrated a desire to help Black applicants obtain a cannabis license.
According to Columbia, its board is 14 percent Black and 14 percent female, and the makeup of its Jefferson Park staff includes 32 percent Hispanic, 23 percent Black, four percent Asian and five percent non-binary. The company also said that it has assisted two Chicago-based, Black-led groups on assembling a cannabis license application under the state’s social equity program.
Last winter the council’s Zoning Committee approved the zoning change, which is required for Columbia to obtain licenses so it can expand to a neighboring storefront. The proposal also was well received at a community meeting that Gardiner hosted.
Columbia sells medical and recreational marijuana. It has established an “Adopt-A-Family” program to help medical marijuana patients who are in financial need and suffer severe, debilitating or life-threatening conditions or diseases.