A substitute ordinance was proposed on Tuesday, October 15, 2019, at a special zoning committee meeting. This blog post reflects only the content of the original ordinance.

The City of Chicago proposed zoning rules for adult use (recreational) "cannabis business establishments" today in ordinance O2019-6926. The rules specify where marijuana dispensaries, cultivators (farmers), craft growers, and infusers and processors would be allowed to open a business. 

What are the different "cannabis business establishments"?

A “cannabis business establishment" is a zoning "use" category that would be established by the ordinance, and it includes the following business types (which are also defined in the state law):

  • Cannabis craft grower

  • Cannabis cultivation center [farm]

  • Adult use cannabis dispensary [recreational]

  • Medical cannabis dispensary

  • Cannabis infuser

  • Cannabis processor

Where would cannabis businesses be allowed?

Five different types of cannabis business establishments are identified: Recreational and medical cannabis dispensaries, on-site cannabis consumption, craft growers, and infusers and processors would be permitted in the following zones. Each type requires its own special use approval by the Zoning Board of Appeals. The uses are permitted the following zones, with a special use:

  • B3

  • C1

  • C2

  • C3

  • DC (except in the downtown exclusion zone)

  • DX (except in the downtown exclusion zone)

  • DS (except in the downtown exclusion zone)

These are the same zones where current rules permit medical cannabis dispensaries.

The minimum distance between recreational dispensaries and sensitive uses would be 500 feet, and the only sensitive use would be schools. The distance is measured from any school entrance to the lot line of the dispensary. A previously proposed ordinance – proposed by a group of alders – would have included day cares and parks as sensitive uses. 

The ordinance also proposes that a dispensary, and any other cannabis business establishment, cannot be built in a building with a dwelling unit – this is also consistent with current code for medical dispensaries. 

Per state law, a recreational dispensary cannot be within 1,500 feet of an existing recreational or medical cannabis dispensary. 

MAPS can create custom site selection maps to help you locate a suitable location in any neighborhood, ward, or ZIP code.

Where would on-site consumption be allowed?

Consuming pot on-site would require a second special use approval in all of the same zoning districts that permit a dispensary (see above). 

Where are the seven districts?

Between January 1, 2020, and April 30, 2020, up to seven dispensaries would be allowed in each of the seven geographic districts that Chicago is proposing – the 11 existing medical dispensaries count toward this cap of 49. On or after May 1, 2020, up to 14 dispensaries would be allowed in each of the districts.

The seven districts are named as follows (click on the link to see a full-screen map on our partner Chicago Cityscape):

Map of the proposed downtown exclusion zone

Where is the downtown exclusion zone?

The downtown exclusion zone (map) is an area bounded by Oak Street, LaSalle Drive, the Chicago River, Ida B. Wells Drive, and Lake Michigan.

Where would growers, infusers, and processors be allowed?

Craft growers, infusers and processors, and indoor cannabis cultivation centers (farms) would be permitted in the following zones as of right:

  • M1

  • M2

  • M3

  • All Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMD)

Cultivation centers with any outdoor operations would require a special use approval. 

What other standards would there be for growers?

  • Retail sales of cannabis products produced on-site at craft growers, infuser and processors, and cultivation centers, would be allowed to occupy up to 20 percent of total floor area or 3,000 s.f., whichever is less. Any state law and rules would also apply, of course.

  • Cannabis infusers or cannabis processors may share enclosed facilities with cannabis craft growers, processing or dispensing organizations.

What would the car parking requirement be?

The parking standard would be the same for all cannabis business establishments, and is the same requirement for any retail business. The parking standard is based on the business's floor area and zoning district. 

For example, a dispensary in a C1 zoning district would not require any car parking if it was smaller than 4,000 s.f. It would require 2.5 car parking spaces for each 1,000 s.f. greater than 4,000 s.f.

Any cannabis business within 1,320 feet of a CTA station, Metra station, or eligible CTA bus route, has half the parking requirement. The parking requirement can be reduced to zero with an administrative adjustment. 

What is a special use approval?

A special use approval is a zoning process by which the applicant (a dispensary owner, for example) requests permission from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The ZBA is an appointed body that has final decision-making authority over zoning requests that are subject to the special use approval. 

The ZBA will hold a hearing for each special use approval application, and applicants must engage an independent expert witness to testify that their proposed use of a property will not have an adverse impact on the neighborhood. 

The ordinance gives the ZBA the authority to use a lottery to determine which applicants get special use permits first and where.

The ZBA has recently changed its application procedures that can affect the timeline of when an applicant is heard. MAPS can help you understand these changes. We have served as an expert witness for three medical cannabis dispensaries in Chicago, and will serve as your expert witness for recreational cannabis uses. 

What is a "craft grower"?

The Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA) regulates cannabis business establishments and defines a craft grower as a business that can cultivate, dry, cure, and package, and which has up to 5,000 s.f. "of canopy space on its premises for plants in the flowering state". The allowable area can be increased by up to 9,000 s.f. to a maximum of 14,000 s.f. A cultivation center has no area limitation.

On-site sales may also be permitted. Think of a craft grower like a brewery that has a taproom to sell its finished products directly to the consumer. 

Per CRTA, a craft grower may not be located within 1,500 feet of an existing craft grower or cultivation center.

Please contact MAPS if you have any questions.