Chicago mayor wants city to grow legal weed and give minorities the opportunity to ‘buy-in’
The move is motivated by complaints that new cannabis laws do not provide paths for Black and brown people to thrive in what appears to be a billion dollar industry
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants people of color to also benefit from the recreational adult-use marijuana industry.
On Monday, Lightfoot said up to $15 million that is generated by tax-increment financing could serve as seed money for Black and brown Chicago residents to learn the business and “buy into” a city plan to open a “cooperative cultivation center,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Most importantly, the money could help minorities overcome their largest hurdle to getting involved in the industry: capital.
Currently, “the vast majority” of people who cultivate and run legalized marijuana businesses are white men, the mayor said.
“This is a very, very expensive business to get involved with. The basics to be a cultivator requires about a $13 million to $15 million investment. There are not a lot of people that have that, particularly in a market that a lot of banks and traditional lenders won’t touch,” Lightfoot said, according to the Sun-Times. “I think the only way to really crack this nut is for the city to invest its own resources to get engaged, get diverse entrepreneurs involved in the most lucrative part of the business, which is cultivation.”
“First of all, we’ve got to jump through the regulatory hoops. … Hopefully, we will get those roadblocks cleared. But I’m very serious about it,” the mayor added.
In December, Lightfoot first mentioned the concept of a city-owned cultivation center, in response to a threat from Jason Ervin, the City Council’s Black Caucus chairman, to delay the Jan. 1 start date for selling recreational weed in Chicago to July 1 due to lack of minority representation.
Ervin continues to be angry because Black people have paid the highest price in the war on drugs yet have “zero representation” among the owners of 11 medical marijuana dispensaries up and running on New Year’s Day.
Lightfoot believes if the city gets involved in the recreational marijuana business, it could open the doors to minority participation. “One of the things that every entrepreneur that’s a small businessperson faces is access to capital. There are some things that we can do using existing city resources to help facilitate that,” she explained, reported the Sun-Times.
“I’ve made no secret of the fact that I would like to have the opportunity for the city to create a cooperative cultivation center so we can bring a professional in, let the professionals run it. But then, people will buy into the cooperative — either with modest cash investment or sweat equity — and eventually, after they learn the business from top-to-bottom, turn that over to them,” Lightfoot added.