For only the fourth time this century, Chicago’s Mayoral election features no incumbent – leading to one of the most wide-open races of recent memory.
On Tuesday, voters will be able to choose from 14 different candidates, and unless one receives 50% of the majority vote, a runoff election between the top 2 candidates will take place later this Spring.
With just 0.4 percentage points separating the top 3 candidates, and only 4% separating the next 4 challengers – it’s difficult to predict who will walk away victorious.
But one thing is for certain – whoever wins will be sure to feature a pro-cannabis platform. All candidates answered “yes” when asked “if they support marijuana legalization” during a Jan. 10 forum sponsored by WGN.
However, some candidates appear to feature a more progressive cannabis platform than others, diving deeper into criminal justice reform and social equity programs.
Let’s take a look at the top 5 candidates and where they stand on cannabis.
The former President of the Chicago Police Board and longtime reform expert currently leads the group of 14 in all major polls.
With a commitment to social justice & equity, Lightfoot has surrounded her cannabis platform around the theme of Ending the War on Drugs. Lightfoot has also continually advocated for the need to carve out minority licenses for dispensaries & cultivators.
Similar to the rhetoric expressed by Rep. Heather Steans & Kelly Cassidy, two lawmakers involved with an adult-use bill, Lightfoot has expressed the need to learn from the best practices of states that have legalized cannabis, and intends to involve leading stakeholders from a variety of industries in the process.
William M. Daley
It wouldn’t be a Chicago election without a Daley running. The youngest of the 7 siblings brings a wealth of political experience into the election as he served as a top official in the Clinton and Obama administrations.
Daley’s main objectives involve ending the current pension crisis, and bringing in large sums of new revenue to the state – to achieve this, he suggests legalizing cannabis, building a land-based Chicago casino, and creating a sub-committees whose sole focus will be to attract new corporate headquarters in the Loop.
Unlike the majority of challengers, Daley has been weary of criticizing Rahm Emanuel, and has even supported his idea of implementing a commuter tax as a way for the state to fix its ongoing financial problems.
Despite a campaign highlighted with staff-affiliated scandals, Preckwinkle has maintained her high-standing in the race.
The former teacher hasn’t been as vocal on cannabis policies as other candidates – but she has expressed the need to better address Chicago’s criminal justice system – which goes hand-in-hand with legalization efforts.
On her official website, unlike other candidates, Preckwinkle does not reserve an “issue” dedicated to cannabis – instead, she focuses on fixing the school system, creating better gun laws, raising the city’s minimum wage & creating better protections against discrimination for POC and the LGBTQ community.
Susana A. Mendoza
Mendoza has been perhaps one of the most vocal candidates when it comes to legalization.
When speaking on legalization, Mendoza often highlights the unjust arrest-rates placed upon minorities within Chicago – even though historical data analysis shows cannabis use is similar across most demographics.
“Prosecution of marijuana use falls disproportionately on minorities though use of marijuana is not concentrated among minority populations. Arrest and Incarceration rates show the criminal justice system treats marijuana as a social/recreational drug in one community and a criminal violation in the other,” stated Mendoza an in interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.
In recent interviews, Mendoza has also focused on how legalization would likely cripple local gangs revenue system; but, to do so, Mendoza has regularly advocated for a tax-rate that would be low enough to discourage black market purchases.
Gery Chico embodies similar financial goals to his challenger Bill Daley – suggesting that legalizing adult-use cannabis and developing a new Chicago casino will help satisfy a 1$ billion spike in pension payments.
Recently, the UIC alumnus took over the stage at the City of Club of Chicago, where he gave a speech that encouraged the legalization of cannabis; focusing on revenue potential, future expungement processes, and minority inclusion.
“An overwhelming number of Chicagoans support the legalization of marijuana — and I do, too. The next mayor has got to sit at that table and fight for Chicago’s share of the pie. We’re gonna be the place where the largest number of dispensaries are located, and the stores that will sell this merchandise — not only to people in Chicago, but to people in the Midwest,” said Chico
The Mayor of Chicago will not be the sole decider in the legalization of adult-use cannabis. With a recreational bill already on the table, and another one expected in the near future, the potential to greatly influence a decision isn’t likely.
But the Mayor will have a greater chance to impact other facets of Illinois policy – including potential expungement processes, inclusion efforts, and social equity programs.
With all current leaders expressing a pro-cannabis platform, the state of Illinois will only continue its forward momentum in regards to an adult-use market.