A group of Chicago activists are asking the state of Illinois to create a new cannabis license that will allow aspiring entrepreneurs to sell weed in public places. Currently, all state-approved cannabis products can only be sold from a licensed dispensary or retail store.
The activists, led by violence interrupter Tio “Mr. Ceasefire” Hardiman, proposed the so-called “peddler’s license” as a way to guarantee social equity in a new industry already dominated by wealthy Caucasians. They also believe the license will reduce gun violence in the Windy City, which is often triggered by drug deals gone bad and hustlers encroaching on others’ turf.
“This way you can take the criminal element out of [selling marijuana] and allow these young guys to make some legal money,” Hardiman said at a press conference held just outside of a Near West Side cannabis store on Wednesday. “And then you can help reduce unemployment in the African-American community.”
Crime likely won’t vanish just because people can legally sling weed on the streets. Furthermore, Illinois’s legalization program includes social equity provisions, which prioritizes some cannabis licenses and tax-funded business loans for former pot convicts and those residing in impoverished areas targeted by the cops. Hardiman added that the proposed peddler’s license will ensure that Chicagoans who live in the toughest neighborhoods most affected by the drug war can make some legitimate tender under legalization, as well.
“Everyone is promising to direct profits from the sale of marijuana into the communities that have been most impacted by the sale of illegal drugs,” he said. “Well, these unemployed men and women are saying they can’t wait until that happens. And to be frank, they don’t believe it will happen. History shows those promises are never kept. The licensed cannabis businesses are already making millions of dollars from sales since January 1, and those citizens with the most experience in the industry are still in the streets unemployed.”
Hardiman also cited California and Colorado’s legal weed industries, where ethnic minorities make up an incredibly small percentage of cannabis business owners. “Those in line to make the profits and get the jobs are not the residents from the struggling neighborhoods,” he said.
How would this peddler’s license work, exactly? Hardiman suggested it could operate much like a service app such as Uber or Doordash in order to create a “paper trail” so regulators knew who was buying the weed and how much they bought, the Chicago Sun Times reported.
Additionally, peddlers likely won’t be pushing their product while skulking around random street corners, either. Rather, they could sell weed from a vendor truck or deliver it from a car. Basically, they wouldn’t need to invest millions of dollars in a retail store, a cultivation warehouse, armed security and transport services, consulting fees, and attorney’s fees just to hawk some flowers.
“Now that selling weed is legal, we need permits so we can continue to build and grow our businesses just like other legitimate businesses in Chicago,” said Don Aklin, a local resident. “The city provides licenses for those in the food service business to sell meals from their trucks and on the streets. The city does not require street vendors to work in restaurants when they make a living from their trucks.... We want the same protections, and we need this help now.”
Neither Gov. Pritzker’s office nor Mayor Lightfoot’s addressed the peddler’s license proposal, but a spokesperson with the governor’s office, Jordan Abudayyeh, told the Chicago Sun Times that cannabis must be sold through licensed storefronts to ensure public safety. She also assured the public that more cannabis licenses would be issued soon, including the coveted social equity licenses for entrepreneurs who were hit hardest by America’s War on Drugs.