Mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters that she’s determined to keep the sale of recreational weed out of the downtown area as matter of public safety and fairness, by which she explained, Illinois should spread the wealth and opportunities that legal pot will likely bring into the state.

“You know what’s going on here. There’s a lot of real estate speculation. People got leases in places where they thought they were gonna be able to open up supreme spots,” said Mayor Lightfoot who added that she feels “pretty strongly that we have to focus on really bringing equity to the neighborhoods.”

Lightfoot campaigned on a promise to bring much-needed development to Chicago’s outlying impoverished neighborhoods that not only underwent decades of dis-investment disproportionately suffered from the drug war as high rates of incarceration for petty offenses destroyed families and communities.

Now that recreational marijuana has been legalized, elected officials and activists want to make sure the communities that were harmed are now able to reap the economic benefits.

When Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational cannabis use, it was the only state in the union to seriously attempt to address the racial disparities head-on.

One-of-a-kind legalization bill, so far

Signed on June 25, 2019 by Governor J. B. Pritzker, the bill is unique in the country in terms of social and criminal justice reform.

To begin with, the bill calls for the automatic expungement of up to 770,000 cannabis records that allows for qualifying individuals to have them removed from their criminal histories.

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act also calls for $12 million from the Cannabis Business Development Fund to be set aside to assist people of color in the industry and to provide resources and opportunities for those seeking to enter the regulatory system.

These opportunities include the creation of a “social equity applicant,” which is a person who was arrested or convicted of a minor cannabis offense, or who is related to someone who was. It can also be a person who lives in or has ties to a community with high rates of poverty and has been disproportionately impacted by the war on cannabis.

The mayor has a point

Lightfoot pointed out that as of Jan. 1, 2020 when legal recreational cannabis goes into effect, the current medical dispensaries will have a significant “head start” and a “leg up,” the mayor said.

“They get to turn all of those existing [medical marijuana] sites into recreational sites right away on January 1st. Then, they get a second site. And all of that happens before anybody else even gets to enter the market,” the mayor said on Sept. 23, per the Chicago Sun Times.

“So we’re focused on equity. I know that’s gonna ruffle some feathers among the people who are already profiting greatly. But so be it. We have to do the right thing.”

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