Human Services Committee considers amending city ordinance to allow cannabis consumption lounges


Daily file photo by Jonah Elkowitz

Ald. Devon Reid (8th). Reid spoke virtually in favor of the creation of cannabis consumption lounges.

Aria Wozniak, Senior Staffer

The Human Services Committee discussed amending city ordinances Tuesday to allow cannabis consumption establishments in Evanston. 

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) proposed the measure, aiming to raise revenue and provide entertainment to Evanston residents through cannabis consumption lounges. He said his goal is to create a permit compliant with state law that would allow establishments to set up these spaces.

“The risk that someone (who) is intoxicated from alcohol poses to another person is even greater than that of someone who is a cannabis user,” Reid said. “I want to think about this like a bar and understand it’s actually a safer version of a bar in many cases.”

With state legalization of recreational marijuana in 2020, committee members said cannabis consumption lounges would feature places to smoke, though they were unsure whether eating would be permitted. 

In its formal proposal for the lounges, the Human Services Committee wrote that the amendment could help raise money for the city’s reparations fund, which was created in 2019 to finance economic development and housing programs for Black Evanston residents. Over the past year, Evanston has worked to pull funding for reparations from multiple sources.

Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) asked other committee members to take their time in considering the amendment. She said that, if the council is to move forward, they should do so with careful consideration — especially if the proposal would tie the consumption facilities to reparations. 

“I want to start to be very careful in associating it with reparations, because I think that has negative pushback if it goes forward and doesn’t do well,” Harris said.

Don Zeigler, chair of the Evanston Health Advisory Council and a health policy and administration professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, spoke against the proposal during public comment.

Ziegler expressed concern over the secondhand smoke that would be produced in these areas. He also said creating the facilities would not advance either health or racial equity.

“I am convinced that amending city ordinances to allow cannabis smoking establishments is not only unwise but would undercut priorities in Evanston Project for the Local Assessment of Needs,” Ziegler said. 

Reid said he acknowledges the dangers of cannabis but encouraged other alderpeople to look at the societal harms of cannabis in comparison to alcohol.

Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) also expressed hesitation. Geracaris said he would like more information about air filtration and secondhand smoke. 

“I know (cannabis consumption lounges) have mitigations around air quality, but I’m concerned for the staff that would work there,” Geracaris said.

To move forward, committee members agreed they need to hear more from professional health and legal advisers and look to other cities that have successfully integrated cannabis lounges, prior to drafting an amendment.

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Twitter: @ari_wozz

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