Chicago’s Public Venue Vaccine Mandate – Does It Impact Cannabis Dispensaries?

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Foley & Lardner LLPOn Tuesday, December 21, 2021, the City of Chicago ordered that many public accommodations, including restaurants, bars, coffee shops, gyms, and entertainment venues, must require patrons to present proof of full vaccination status before entry. The order becomes effective January 3, 2022, so time is short for businesses to establish processes and procedures for compliance with the new rules.

Conspicuously absent from the non-exhaustive list of specific venues covered by the order are cannabis retail establishments. This is likely by design. The thrust of the order focuses on businesses serving food and beverages, where patrons would otherwise, be permitted, under the Illinois mask mandate rules, to temporarily remove a facemask to eat or drink. In other words, businesses where patrons would not otherwise take down their masks, because they are not consuming anything on-site, would not be expressly covered by the order. Logically, then cannabis retailers are not covered (unless they are also serving food and/or drink on-site). 

While it is arguable that consumption of edibles and/or smoking or vaping on-site, where someone would need to take their mask down, could convert a business to a covered venue, Chicago’s cannabis regulations do not currently allow consumption of product on-site and as such, the vaccine order should theoretically not be a concern for Chicago-based cannabis retailers at this time. However, while proposals to allow on-site consumption locations within Chicago remain stalled in the City Council, they are likely to be re-considered in the future, at which time the city’s public venue vaccine mandate may come back into play for cannabis retailers.

Nevertheless, at this time, cannabis retailers in Chicago should continue to mandate masking within their facilities and should prohibit consumption of any product on-site (both to comply with Chicago’s current on-site consumption prohibition and to avoid inadvertently coming within the purview of the public venue vaccine mandate). Of course, cannabis retailers can voluntarily require proof of vaccination from patrons and employees alike, but there does not appear to be an express requirement to do so at this time.

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