The Human Services Committee and Eighth Ward City Council Member Devon Reid are recommending the City Council permit cannabis smoking lounges to provide a space for residents to smoke legally and help fund the city’s reparations program.

Cannabis plant Credit: Michael Fischer

The council is scheduled to discuss amending the city’s zoning ordinance, which prohibits consumption of cannabis at any business, at its 7 p.m. meeting on Monday, Feb. 27.

“Consumption lounges may be viewed as an equity issue for residents who reside at properties where cannabis consumption is prohibited, such as in rental units or apartments, multi-family buildings, on Northwestern’s campus, etc,” says Ike Ogbo, Health & Human Services Director, in a memo to the council.

“Currently, residents who live in cannabis-prohibited buildings may have nowhere legal to consume the product, so consumption occurs in parks, parking lots and alleys. Providing a legal location for consumption allows all residents to have equitable opportunities without breaking the law.”

Citations for cannabis possession and use don’t happen often, according to Evanston Police Department Commander Ryan Glew. On Feb. 2, Glew told the RoundTable via email that since October last year, EPD has issued no city tickets and two state citations for cannabis. (EPD can issue citations for violating city or state law for cannabis.)

”It appears the legalization of cannabis has made this ordinance at least partially obsolete,” Glew wrote.

Reparations program revenue

Reid, who proposed amending the ordinance, said that a cannabis lounge could help increase sales at the city’s only dispensary. The city’s reparations program relies on that revenue and the graduated real estate tax to fund reparations grants.

Evanston wouldn’t be the first city in Illinois to have a cannabis lounge. A handful of other cities in the state, such as Sesser, Mundelein, Carbondale and Springfield, allow cannabis lounges through a permit process, according to Ogbo’s memo.

City Council Members Juan Geracaris (9th Ward), Bobby Burns (5th Ward) and Reid voted in favor of cannabis lounges during the Feb. 6 Human Services Committee. But City Council Members Krissie Harris (2nd Ward) and Eleanor Revelle (7th Ward) voted against it.

The American Heart Association, the Respiratory Health Association and the city’s Health Advisory Council oppose the proposal for cannabis lounges. Donald Zeigler, chair of the city’s Health Advisory Council, told the committee he was concerned about health risks.

“We believe that is unwise and would undercut public health, the city’s indoor air policies and achievement of Evanston’s 5-year health plan [EPLAN], which pledges to advance health and racial equity,” Zeigler said Feb. 6.

But Ogbo told the committee: “Building code requirements and special use conditions would ensure appropriate ventilation of the facility, which would minimize impacts on other properties in comparison to illegal consumption elsewhere with lingering smoke.”

Gina Castro

Gina Castro is a Racial Justice fellow for the RoundTable. She recently earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she studied investigative reporting....

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  1. Igbo said lounges would be “ contrary to the long fought endeavors to establish the city’s clean air act.”
    You mischaracterize his position, watch the Human services committee meeting and see just how contentious the meeting was.