Illinois Approves Its First Adult-Use Marijuana Consumption Lounge
Springfield City Council approves a marijuana consumption lounge, a crucial piece to the legalization puzzle.
Illinois just started legal recreational marijuana sales on Jan. 1, 2020, but cannabis entrepreneurs are already set to open the state’s first marijuana lounge in the state capital of Springfield.
Called The Illinois Supply and Provisions, the state's first consumption lounge is set to open in April in downtown Springfield. Visitors to the store will be able to buy marijuana and consume it on the premises.
Alderman voices concern about the 'character' of downtown.
As has been the case in other parts of the country, the lounge led to a strong debate on both sides. In Springfield, the City Council approved a license in January for the lounge. But an alderman who opposed the license, Joe McMenamin, summed up the concerns voiced by opponents, according to NPR Illinois:
“I'm worried about the change to the character of our downtown and putting at risk our downtown with the activity created by the on-site consumption, and folks getting high and drinking, also.”
Chris Stone, a representative of the lounge owners, assured the City Council there is “some responsibility” for owners to make sure patrons get home safely. He said that includes making sure they get an Uber, Lyft or taxi ride, or that they can walk back to their hotel.
“We want to make sure they get home safely,” Stone said.
State lawmakers restricted marijuana consumption lounges in the new law
The Illinois Supply and Provisions lounge will accommodate about 150 people. The actual use of marijuana will happen in the same building but in a separate space from where dispensary sales are conducted.
To allow smoking, the state had to grant marijuana consumption lounges an exemption from the state’s anti-indoor smoking laws, modeled on the exemption granted to cigar bars.
Initially, state lawmakers planned to allow consumption in bars, restaurants and beauty shops, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. However, in late 2019 lawmakers changed the law to allow consumption only at dispensaries or in licensed smoke shops.
To avoid conflicts, lawmakers also prohibited ownership in dispensaries by any member of the Illinois General Assembly or their immediate family for two years after the elected official leaves office. Lawmakers added this after learning that Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, a Chicago Democrat, was leading a company that intended to enter the industry.
This is a nationwide issue that impacts renters more than owners
Lounges have slowly started to open in Alaska and Colorado, but it’s been a tough sell in many parts of the country. As things stand in most states, you can only consume marijuana in your private home. It’s not allowed in public places, restaurants, bars, and most hotels.
The law is particularly restrictive on those who do not own their home. Marijuana use is not allowed in public housing. And landlords can ban marijuana use in the apartments they own.
Doris Turner, a Springfield alderman, brought up this issue, according to NPR. She said that “on-site lounges provide some safety for individuals who are 21 and over that want to consume a legal product, and I believe that people will be responsible and they will react and act in the same way [as] if they go downtown to a bar.”