Aldermen introduce a rule making recreational cannabis legal


Evan Robinson-Johnson/Daily Senior Staffer

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) at a City Council meeting. Rue Simmons had questions about the city legalizing recreational cannabis.

Samantha Handler, City Editor

Aldermen on the Administration and Public Works Committee unanimously voted to introduce an ordinance Monday that makes it legal for anyone who is 21 or older to possess recreational cannabis in Evanston.

However, aldermen still have questions about how Evanston police will enforce the new law, as well as how the city will inform residents. Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) said she wants to give all matters regarding recreational cannabis “very close attention.”

The ordinance allows Illinois residents to possess 30 grams of cannabis flower, up to 500 milligrams of THC in cannabis-infused concentrate and up to 5 grams of cannabis concentrate. Non-Illinois residents can possess half of each of the limits.

Interim city manager Erika Storlie said at the meeting that there are current provisions in City Code that allow police to issue citations to someone caught in possession of cannabis. With the Illinois state law legalizing recreational cannabis taking effect Jan. 1, Evanston needs to change its code. Based on the new ordinance, Storlie said the city would not issue citations to anyone possessing legal amounts of cannabis.

The city wants to hold two community meetings for the public to understand what the allowable amounts are, and at least one meeting will be held in December, Storlie said.

“One of them will be geared toward residents who want to know what they can and can’t do,” Storlie said. “We also want to have a forum for business owners to know what they can and can’t do in terms of their employees, whether or not they can still have a drug-free workplace, things like that.”

Some aldermen questioned if the Evanston Police Department will still be able to conduct car searches based on the smell of cannabis.

Evanston police chief Demetrious Cook added that EPD will post about what amounts of cannabis are legal on EPD’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. He said people found to be under the influence of cannabis while driving will face DUIs, and the equipment for testing the amount of cannabis in a person’s system should come out by June.

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said at one of her ward meetings that Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) explained to residents that by making recreational cannabis use legal, it is treated in a similar way to beer.

“Beer is legal,” Rainey said. “You can’t drink a beer in your car, and you’re not going to be able to smoke a joint in your car because it creates a different state of awareness.”

While the ordinance was introduced unanimously, Rue Simmons said she still has “lots of questions,” including about whether residents can smoke in the presence of minors. Aldermen will continue to discuss as the city moves forward with the legalization of recreational cannabis.

Aldermen are also in discussions about zoning regulations regarding cannabis dispensary locations and what taxes to impose on those dispensaries.

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