‘The Haymaker’ is Leafly Deputy Editor Bruce Barcott’s opinion column on cannabis politics and culture.
In Sunday’s Chicago Sun-Occasions, reporter Tom Schuba laid out a compelling case for embracing retail cannabis retailers in one particular of America’s greatest cities. Headline: “Crime fell close to pot shops right after marijuana was completely legalized, Colorado study shows.”
Just as Leafly located in our study of dispensary myths earlier this year, Schuba reported that “new study shows crime prices dropped substantially in locations with marijuana dispensaries, operating counter to fears that pot shops drum up crime.” His story anticipated the anticipated fears that a lot of Illinois residents may possibly have relating to adult-use legalization, which is scheduled to start out statewide on Jan. 1, 2020.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot reacted to the Sun-Occasions story in a rather odd manner. 3 days right after its publication, she proposed banning retail cannabis retailers from Chicago’s Central Enterprise District and residential locations. Because… why, precisely?
Deputy Mayor Samir Mayekar explained. Mayekar told the Related Press that a downtown “exclusion zone” is warranted since of its higher density of small business and vacationers. (Chicago essentially has a law that defines the Central Enterprise District. It is huge. If you are at Navy Pier above Lake Michigan, the far western edge of the Enterprise District is extra than two miles away.)
Mayor’s Program: Enhance Illegal Sales
So as an alternative of licensing and regulating cannabis retailers, Mayor Lightfoot desires to increase the illegal cannabis marketplace in the downtown core and in residential neighborhoods. For the reason that that is what takes place when regulated retailers are prohibited: Illicit sellers thrive. Unlicensed delivery solutions pop up.
Chicago residents, denied the chance to buy clean, protected, lab-tested items, will resort to illicit-marketplace items like the toxic vape pen cartridges that are at present killing folks about the nation.
We know this since it is taking place appropriate now in California. 1 of the earliest situations of vape lung distress came out of rural Kings County, California. Why Kings County? For the reason that no licensed, regulated cannabis retailers are permitted there. So nearby shoppers resort to illegal, untested products—which final month place seven folks in the hospital.
Are Chicagoans This Frail?
City Hall’s reasoning has me confused. Does Mayor Lightfoot think Chicago’s thriving small business district would be thrown into chaos by the opening of a handful of licensed cannabis boutiques?
When did Chicago turn into a city of fearful pearl-clutchers?
I’m shocked she believes her city’s adults have such small resilience, duty, and willpower. I feel of Ditka, Oprah, Obama, and Royko when I feel of Chicago—strong, hard characters. Maybe I’m mistaken.
There are at present about 870 licensed bars serving alcohol in Chicago. Hundreds of them serve businesspeople in the Central Enterprise District. Obtainable proof indicates that their presence has small deleterious impact on the suit-and-tie crowd’s capacity to carry out the tasks of the day. In truth, it is rumored that small business transactions may possibly essentially take place inside these establishments.
Vacationers: Shops Are Characteristics, Not Bugs
And these vacationers? Effectively, you do not have to inform me about vacationers avoiding cities with cannabis retailers. Seattle (40 million annual guests, eighth straight year of record tourism development), Denver (tourism income hit a record $six.five billion in 2017), San Francisco (26 million annual guests), and Las Vegas (42 million folks per year) have clearly turned into ghost towns considering that their legal retailers opened.
Want to know how a great deal vacationers loathe cannabis? Cease by the Herban Legends retailer or Have a Heart’s Belltown outlet on the day a cruise ship is docked along the nearby Seattle waterfront. Pack a lunch, since you will be waiting behind a lengthy line of out-of-towners thrilled to make their initial legal cannabis buy.
Open Retailers. Make Chicago Much better and Safer
I get it, Mayor Lightfoot. You are anxious. Possibly even a small scared. When you attempt to picture a cannabis retailer, you likely feel of the scuzziest vape shop or liquor retailer. I’ve noticed this occur in each single state that is legalized. Men and women picture the worst. And then when they essentially stroll into a cannabis boutique, they’re shocked at how clean, protected, eye-catching, and typical the entire encounter is.
Appear at the information, Mayor Lightfoot. Use proof, not worry, to drive policy.
Earlier this year, Leafly’s editorial employees took a appear at the deepest fears—about crime, underage use, and house values—and located tough proof dispelling each one particular of them. Crime does not rise (in a lot of areas, it falls), teen use remains unchanged or falls, and house values stay the very same or rise.
Appear into the out there information, Mayor Lightfoot. Then come out to Seattle. Take a look at Denver. Cease in to a legal, licensed retailer in Boston. Or Las Vegas. Or San Francisco. See for oneself. And reconsider your urge to hold the illegal sellers, and their toxic vape cartridges, thriving on the streets of Chicago.