Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker signed HB 1438 yesterday morning, adopting the Adult Use Cannabis Act that will legalize recreational marijuana sales and usage by those 21 years and older starting January 1, 2020. 

MAPS has several compliance services for businesses that intend to open recreational weed dispensaries in Chicago, from choosing a location to obtaining a special use permit to assuring the storefront plans adhere to building codes. 

Illinois's new law enables cities to adopt zoning changes to allow recreational dispensaries and cultivation centers as a new use. The law also specifies how many licenses for recreational dispensaries there will be per "BLS region". The regions come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Chicago Cityscape has described them in detail. Chicagoland is a single region, comprising nine counties, and has been assigned up to 47 early approval recreational dispensary licenses. Additional licenses can be issued after May 1, 2020.

Existing medical cannabis dispensaries will be allowed to apply for a recreational dispensary license at the existing medical cannabis dispensary site, and an additional recreational dispensary license to operate at a secondary site more than 1,500 feet away from an existing dispensary and in a BLS region that intersects the existing medical cannabis dispensary’s medical cannabis district; those licenses are not subject to the early approval recreational dispensary licenses quota.

Read more about the difference between “districts”, which affect medical cannabis dispensaries, and “BLS regions”, which affect recreational/adult use cannabis dispensaries.

Chicago's zoning code allows medical cannabis dispensaries in just seven zoning district classifications. Additionally, Chicago's zoning code doesn't allow a medical cannabis dispensary in any building that has a dwelling unit. State law requires that medical cannabis dispensaries are 1,000 feet away from daycares, home daycares, and schools and preschools (what are commonly called sensitive uses).

Just look at the map: Areas in pink are the only parts of Chicago where one can potentially open a medical cannabis dispensary. Gray areas show the required 1,000 foot distance a dispensary has to be from sensitive uses. Green areas show the 1,500 foot buffer around existing medical marijuana dispensaries – those medical dispensary owners who apply for a recreational pot dispensary license must be outside of the green areas.

Just look at the map: Areas in pink are the only parts of Chicago where one can potentially open a medical cannabis dispensary. Gray areas show the required 1,000 foot distance a dispensary has to be from sensitive uses. Green areas show the 1,500 foot buffer around existing medical marijuana dispensaries – those medical dispensary owners who apply for a recreational pot dispensary license must be outside of the green areas.

The combination of the those siting rules make it difficult to find a suitable location for a medical marijuana dispensary. In all cases, an application will need to obtain a special use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) before receiving a business license and building permit. 

The rules for siting recreational dispensaries are going to be different. They will be required to be more than 1,500 feet away from each other. Illinois recreational marijuana law doesn't set minimum distances to sensitive uses. Chicago has yet to adopt local legislation to enable recreational marijuana businesses.

MAPS can help companies wanting to open cannabis dispensaries and cultivation centers in Chicago through a host of compliance services: 

  • Mapping and site selection to find suitable properties that meet City of Chicago and Illinois requirements

  • Zoning assessment of a client-selected site to verify its compliance

  • Expert witness for the special use permit process once a location has been selected and leased

  • Buildout design compliance with building, energy, and accessibility codes - The Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR) requires documentation that the selected storefront meets building and fire codes, and all local ordinances.

  • Building permit management

To find suitable locations, we work with Chicago Cityscape's vast mapping platform to filter out the properties that don't meet the geographic requirements of the Illinois medical cannabis and recreational cannabis laws and the Chicago zoning code. 

In addition, clients can hire us to serve as the expert witness at the Zoning Board of Appeals hearing, which is a required part of obtaining a special use permit. Finally, clients should engage MAPS to conduct a quality assurance review of the store buildout plans. 

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