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  • Writer's pictureNoah Jager

Cannabis Licensing in Chicago

Updated: Nov 5, 2019

The actual process of applying for a cannabis business license in Chicago is still evolving and therefore frustratingly vague. While the licensing ordinance proposed by Mayor Lightfoot on September 18 has not yet been voted on by the City Council, its language provides some insight as to what the regime will look like.

Proposed ordinance O2019-6979 sets out the types of entities that will be licensed by the City of Chicago. It also provides some detail in regards to the application process.

The City’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection will issue licenses to dispensaries, cannabis transporters, cannabis infusers, craft growers, cultivators, cannabis cafes, as well as licenses for on-site consumption, incidental consumption, and professional services with on-site consumption (essentially, on-premises consumption for a doctor or wellness professional). The proposed ordinance also lays out the licensing fee for each of those entities, which range from $100 for a cannabis café up to $50,000 for a cultivator’s license.

The cannabis café license comes with some interesting details. Cannabis cafes, as proposed, are businesses with the primary purpose of on-site consumption of marijuana. Any currently licensed medical dispensary that opens a cannabis cafe on-site or directly adjacent to their premises that partners with a “social equity entity” as the term is defined in the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act is eligible for a grant up to $25,000 and favorable zoning.

To apply for a cannabis business license, applicants must file a sworn application with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. In a curious typo, the proposed ordinance lists the application contents for massage parlors (“The application for a license to operate a massage establishment shall set forth the type of license sought”). While the proposed ordinance doesn’t give a hint as to which forms will be used for the application, it does suggest that the City will be looking for the same sort of information generally gathered as part of an application for a City license: the names and financial histories of all applicants, the prior licensing statuses of all applicants, and evidence of compliance with current laws.

The proposed ordinance, apart from setting out the City’s licensing plans, also amends several sections of the Municipal Code to reflect the impact of cannabis legalization--licensees in a variety of fields no longer have to report past convictions for cannabis-related crimes, public chauffeurs (including taxi drivers) no longer have to pass a drug screen for cannabis, and references to cannabis would be removed from the current gang loitering code section.

This ordinance will be worth keeping an eye on as Chicago moves forward with implementing legalization. For help in understanding the changing landscape of cannabis licensing in Chicago or if you are interested in getting a license be sure to reach out to Alvin W. Block and Associates at

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