Long before the lottery to determine which marijuana dispensary companies would get to sell recreational pot in Chicago next year, the room in City Hall was packed, with business owners, company reps and executives filling every seat.
Industry experts and weed firm representatives crowded into the room on Friday, standing along the walls and spilling out into the hallway for a chance to try their luck at getting one of the more lucrative locations in the citywide weed sales bonanza set to start Jan. 1.
Though Mayor Lori Lightfoot has preached equity, the crowd was not diverse. It was an overwhelmingly white and male group decked out in business suits, casual sweaters with their company logos embroidered into the front, and hoodies representing elite Catholic high schools.
Paul Nowacki, of Elevele, traveled from Highland Park and showed up to City Hall hours before the lottery to make sure he got inside and settled before the action began. But because the lottery randomly selected the firms, he wasn’t called on until the process was nearly done and the prime spots were taken.
Still, Nowacki said he was pleased with getting a special permit to operate in the Far South District.
“It’s a privilege to participate and to get to be one of the few dispensaries chosen,” he said afterward. “We didn’t get the location we wanted, but on the Far South Side there is lots of opportunity, so we are glad.”