Cannabis Zoning Ordinance
Updated Dec. 2, 2021
The Cannabis Zoning Ordinance, amended in September 2021, regulates where new adult use cannabis dispensaries may open in the City of Chicago.
The ordinance permits new adult use cannabis dispensaries in certain Commercial (C), Downtown (D), Manufacturing (M) and Planned Manufacturing (PMD) zoning districts provided they obtain a special use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). This ensures each new adult use cannabis dispensary receives a public hearing before the ZBA and provides an opportunity for public comment.
The ordinance also permits cannabis craft grower, processor and infuser facilities to locate by right in certain Manufacturing (M) zoning districts if they are 660 feet away from residential districts. However, if such facilities are located within 660 feet of a residential district, they must, like adult use cannabis dispensaries, obtain a special use permit from the ZBA. Additional details on the special use process can be found on the ZBA cannabis application checklist.
The 2021 amendment to the Cannabis Zoning Ordinance eliminated the lottery and cap system for adult use cannabis dispensaries that was previously in place.
Additionally, the Cannabis Zoning Ordinance prohibits adult use cannabis dispensaries from locating within a portion of downtown and within 500 feet of a school. State law generally prohibits certain cannabis dispensaries from locating within 1,500 feet of another cannabis dispensary, with some exception. For instance, state law does permit social equity adult use cannabis dispensaries to locate within 1,500 feet of non-social equity adult use cannabis dispensaries.
Downtown Exclusion Zone
Due to the unique character, configuration and congestion of downtown Chicago, the Cannabis Zoning Ordinance prohibits adult use cannabis dispensaries from opening within a defined portion of the Central Business District.
The boundaries of the Downtown Exclusion Zone run from Division Street to Van Buren Street between State Street and Michigan Avenue. On Michigan Avenue itself, the exclusion zone goes from Division Street on the north to 16th Street on the south. The exclusion zone also includes the area bounded by Ohio Street on the north, Illinois Street on the south, State Street on the west, and Navy Pier on the east.
Restricted Cannabis Zones
Illinois law allows a legal voter to propose a restriction on cannabis business establishments within his or her precinct. To begin that process, an individual must seek a petition from the City Clerk. More information on creating a restricted cannabis zone can be found on the City Clerk's website, including a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the process. Additionally, a list of precincts where residents have filed a notice of intent to restrict cannabis business establishments is available on the Clerk's website.
Cannabis Business Establishments in M2 and M3 Districts
Pursuant to Section 17-5-0207-LL and Section 17-9-0129(6) of the Zoning Ordinance, a cannabis cultivation center, cannabis craft grower, cannabis infuser or cannabis processor is a permitted use by-right in M2 Light Industry and M3 Heavy Industrial zoning districts, if such use is located more than 660 feet from any residential district.
Special use approval is required for a cannabis cultivation center, cannabis craft grower, cannabis infuser or cannabis processor in “M2” and “M3” districts when such use is located within 660 feet of any residential district. The definition of residential district includes all residential planned developments.
If a residential district is located within 660 feet of the subject site, a zoning map stamped by a licensed surveyor identifying all zoning districts within the 660-foot radius must be submitted prior to the issuance of an opinion response or denial by DPD for a cannabis cultivation center, cannabis craft grower, cannabis infuser or cannabis processor in an M2 or M3 district.
Adult Use Cannabis Lottery
While adult use cannabis dispensaries previously needed to enter a lottery to determine where in the City of Chicago they could be located, that system was eliminated in 2021. Previous lottery results are available on the city’s website.
Adult Use Cannabis Application Process
From September 2021, each company wishing to open an adult use cannabis dispensary must submit consent from the property owner for the proposed location, along with other relevant information pertaining to Section 17-9-0129.3 of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance, in order to seek a zoning opinion letter from DPD.
If DPD opines that an adult use cannabis dispensary is allowed at the location, then the company must apply for a special use from the ZBA, host a community meeting prior to their ZBA public hearing, and obtain a special use permit from the ZBA prior to opening. Details about that process can be found on the ZBA cannabis application checklist.
All applicants seeking a special use permit to open a cannabis business establishment must hold a community meeting in the ward of their proposed location in accordance with Section 17-13-0905-G of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance. This requirement has not been waived due to the ongoing public health crisis, and simply holding a virtual meeting does not satisfy the requirement.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, applicants should hold meetings in accordance with orders from the State of Illinois and City of Chicago. Although a virtual meeting does not alone satisfy the in-ward community meeting requirement, additional or simultaneous virtual meetings can also be implemented to supplement the requirements of Section 17-13-0905-G. Those details will need to be shared with the Zoning Board during the special use hearing so that the Zoning Board can determine if they are acceptable.
The ZBA Chair has ordered that all applicants seeking a special use permit to open a cannabis business establishment must disclose the name, address and percentage of ownership of each individual or entity owning more than 5 percent of the applicant. Further details can be found in the rule dated Jan. 17, 2020.
State law requires that the City of Chicago provide public notice whenever an application for a special use for a cannabis business establishment is filed. These details can be found on this public notice page.