Mayor Lori Lightfoot is working to form a city-owned marijuana cultivation co-op that aspiring entrepreneurs could buy into to address some of the inequities in the legal marijuana business, she said Monday.

“I would like to have the opportunity for the city to create a cooperative cultivation center so that we can bring a professional in … then people will buy into the cooperative even with a modest cash investment or sweat equity and eventually, after they learn the business from top to bottom, turn that over to them,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot made the comments at an unrelated news conference to announce that eight more Chicago libraries will soon open on Sundays. She was asked about City Council Black Caucus Chairman Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th, who’s held open the possibility that he may force a vote on a measure to push back the Jan. 1 start date for legal marijuana sales in the city.

Ervin last week said he’s still working to convince state officials and Lightfoot’s administration to strengthen the equity rules in the weed law so African Americans get a fair shake at getting a significant piece of the lucrative business before white owners corner it.

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Lightfoot on Monday said she’s met with Ervin and continues to talk with him about solutions.

“I understand their concern and want to make sure this new law speaks to the inequities that have befallen black and brown communities, particularly over the war on drugs,” Lightfoot said.

Asked how serious she is about the cultivation center, Lightfoot said the city’s been working on it “for some time” and has to jump through some regulatory hoops.

“This is a very, very expensive business to get involved in. What I understand is, the basics to be a cultivator requires about a $13 to $15 million investment. There’s not a lot of people that have that, particularly in a market that a lot of banks and other traditional financial lenders won’t touch,” Lightfoot said. “I think the only way to really crack this nut is for the city to invest its own resources, to get engaged, get diverse entrepreneurs involved in the most lucrative part of the business which is cultivation.”

It’s not clear where the city would find the money for such a center if it were ever approved but Lightfoot said the city would have options.

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