Multiple cannabis firms filled out the room at City Hall in Chicago to enter the first-ever cannabis permit lottery. A photo of the scene was posted on Twitter and Black people were nowhere to be found.
According to ABC 7, seven of the designated cannabis zones in Chicago are capped at a maximum of seven dispensaries. This is expected to increase to 14 dispensaries in May. The newly elected Mayor Lori Lightfoot is setting the limit to ensure the stores are evenly distributed throughout the windy city.
Various cannabis businesses were quick to pack City Hall to win a spot in one of Chicago’s seven zones. Joe Caltabiano of Cresco Labs was able to get the first pick in the first round, winning a coveted spot in Chicago’s central business district, which includes the entertainment corridor. “I didn’t sleep as well last night as I would have liked so it’s certainly an anxious situation for a lot [of] people,” Caltabiano said.
While white men like Caltabiano were receiving opportunities for a business sure to be booming, Black people or people of color seemed to be lacking in the room.
Jamil Taylor of Viola Brands operates in five different states and is hoping to operate in Illinois. In his visit to City Hall, he noticed an alarming lack of diversity in the room. “Not seeing people of color, Black, brown, Asian, just folks in that room don’t really identify as what the city looks like and that’s a challenge and a problem,” Taylor said.
Thanks to a photo of the scene, posted on Twitter, many people on social media also found issue with the lack of diversity in the room.
Chicago is hoping to use the marijuana industry, which becomes legal in the New Year, to boost development in Chicago’s South and West Sides, which have big populations of Black people. Even though marijuana arrests have declined in Chicago, a vast majority of them are still Black people, according to the Chicago Sun Times. This begs the question of how many Black people are still sitting in prisons and jails because of marijuana possession and how are they being introduced to this new booming marijuana industry. “This is really only a new trail if it’s something more than just reforming a system that leaves the people who are already devastated further behind,” said Brendan Schiller of The Herbal Care Center.
To add insult to injury, according to Curbed, if you’re an Illinois resident who lives in federally subsidized public housing or uses Section 8 housing vouchers, you can still face harsh penalties for using marijuana, including potential eviction from your home. Recently, managers of Section 8 housing distributed a notice to tenants that read, in part, that “federal law prohibits marijuana use and possession in federally subsidized housing.”
Discrimination has never been so clearer and people on Twitter definitely took note.
Scroll down for some more reactions to the very white marijuana businesses.