Illinois’ capital city Springfield became the first of the state’s local governments to approve a public cannabis consumption lounge, something a statewide cannabis business association said could pave the way for other venues throughout the state.
The Springfield City Council vote was nearly unanimous Tuesday in favor of granting Illinois Supply and Provisions’ zoning request for a public lounge in Springfield. One Springfield alderman, Joe McMenamin, voted against the idea.
“We’re putting at risk our downtown with the activity created by the on-site consumption and folks getting high, and drinking also, and what it will do to our historic district,” McMenamin said.
He cast the sole “no” vote.
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Illinois Supply and Provisions, formerly known as HCI Alternatives, has been selling both medical and recreational cannabis since Jan. 1. State law allows for local governments to decide whether or not to allow public onsite consumption of legal cannabis products. On-site consumption is limited to cannabis dispensaries and tobacco shops under the law.
Chris Stone, with Illinois Supply and Provisions’ parent company, Ascend Illinois, said the estimated 9,000-square-foot space next to its dispensary in downtown Springfield will have the proper insurance, air filtration and trained staff. Stone said Illinois Supply and Provisions will consider offering food and drinks.
“There’s also contemplation to potentially put in a kitchen that allows people to buy the product inside the dispensary and actually be able to come and learn how to infuse it [into foods],” Stone said.
An opening date has yet to be announced.
Some aldermen said the lounge was needed because of the area hotels. Alderwoman Doris Turner said it will also be good for adults who can’t consume cannabis in a rental property or public housing.
“And I think providing onsite consumption lounges is being very responsible and not putting individuals at risk when they are consuming a legal product,” Turner said.
Pamela Althoff with CannaBiz, a statewide business association, said Springfield was leading the way. She said she expected Chicago to be next to approve an on-site consumption lounge.
“I don’t believe that I’ve attended any concert in the last ten years … that people haven’t been consuming [cannabis in public],” Altoff said.
“My biggest concern is that there will be people who, again, chose to consume publicly and if we don’t try and accommodate and provide them a location in which to do so we’re going to see again another iteration, different form mind you, but another iteration of a whole group of people being arrested for consuming in public small amounts of cannabis,” she said.
Althoff said that runs contrary to part of cannabis legalization law that expunges low-level cannabis offenses.
(Copyright WBGZ Radio / www.AltonDailyNews.com)