Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals Releases Rules for Upcoming Cannabis Special Use Permit Lottery

October 28, 2019

Process to apply for first round of recreational special use permits begins at November’s Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting; followed by community review process

The City of Chicago today announced that applicants for special use permits will be allowed to select their cannabis district of choice by lottery on Friday, Nov. 15. This lottery will be administered in accordance with rules made available online by the Chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). All applicants properly licensed to operate in the Chicago region will have the opportunity to select cannabis districts through the lottery process, marking the first steps for approval to open new recreational dispensaries after legalization on Jan. 1, 2020.

After being selected through the lottery and to ensure residents have a voice in the locations of new dispensaries, all applying cannabis businesses will be required to host at least one community engagement meeting in the affected ward prior to their ZBA public hearing. 

Under the ordinance approved by City Council, the City established seven districts across Chicago, each of which is initially allowed up to seven recreational cannabis dispensaries to ensure equal distribution of dispensaries citywide. While all new cannabis business establishments are required to obtain a special use permit from the ZBA, 11 of the special use permits are anticipated to be used by existing medical cannabis dispensaries, which are permitted by State law to open a second site location for recreational cannabis sales anytime after Jan. 1, 2020. 

The remainder of the special use designations will be awarded through the new lottery conducted by the ZBA Chairman this fall. Applicants for special use permits will be randomly selected from a pool of authorized lottery entrants, all of whom must have a current medical cannabis license issued by the State of Illinois to operate a medical cannabis dispensary in the Chicago region. 

Following a random selection process, each selected business will choose its preferred district. Once the maximum threshold of seven dispensaries per cannabis district are selected via the lottery, businesses must select a new district. 

Businesses selected through the lottery will be allowed to submit a special use application to the ZBA for recreational cannabis sales anywhere in their chosen district, provided the location is allowed by the zoning code and not located within the Downtown Exclusion District

The cannabis zoning ordinance requires this meeting be held at least two weeks prior to the ZBA hearing. Residents will have additional opportunities to weigh in, with community input encouraged at the ZBA hearing. 

To be included in the lottery, eligible businesses must apply by 4:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8. The drawing will begin at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 15 in Room 201A at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St, prior to the start of the regular ZBA meeting.  The rules for the lottery and subsequent community review process, developed by the ZBA, were authorized by the Cannabis Zoning Ordinance adopted earlier this month by City Council. For more information, read the official rules or visit the Cannabis Zoning Ordinance web page.

About the ZBA

The ZBA reviews land use issues that pertain to the Chicago Zoning Ordinance, including proposed variations from the zoning code, special uses that require review to determine compatibility with adjacent properties, and appeals of decisions made by the Zoning Administrator. Established in 1923, the board has five members that are appointed by the Mayor with City Council consent.

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