Illinois Is Already Getting a Weed Lounge, Just Weeks After Legalizing

Springfield just became the first municipality in Illinois to approve an on-site pot lounge, while plans to approve public consumption spaces in Chicago have been put on the back burner.

Just weeks after Illinois opened the green flood gates of adult-use cannabis, the city of Springfield announced its approval of the state's first on-site pot lounge.

This past Tuesday, the Springfield City Council approved a request by the Illinois Supply & Provisions (IS&P) dispensary to open a cannabis consumption area on its premises. The new lounge will be constructed in a separate space within the same building that IS&P currently occupies in downtown Springfield. The company will develop the new space over the next few months, but has yet to announce an opening date.

Like most adult-use states, Illinois prohibits public pot consumption, a restriction that applies to parks, bars, restaurants, hotels, sidewalks, and streets. Landlords are also allowed to prohibit tenants from smoking weed, and state law prevents occupants of public housing from smoking up in their own homes. These restrictions make it difficult for tourists, or for any Illinoisan who doesn't own a home, to legally partake in the state's newly-legal weed world.

“With stringent public consumption laws in place, it’s important to have designated areas where people can consume cannabis legally and safely,” said IS&P Regional Director Kathleen Olivastro to the Chicago Sun Times. “We will be thoughtful in how we create this experience just as we have done at the dispensary level.”

The Smoke-Free Illinois Act allows any pot dispensary or smoke shop that makes over 80 percent of its revenue from tobacco sales to open a public weed consumption area. So far, Springfield is the only municipality that has allowed this. The Chicago City Council recently debated plans to create licensed on-site consumption areas in the Windy City, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot called off the vote.

The mayor's office reportedly delayed the vote over concerns from local aldermen. Ald. Brian Hopkins told the Sun Times that he was concerned that a licensed pot lounge could become a “party magnet,” allowing customers to “spill out onto the street” like a “problem” bar. Mayor Lightfoot said that she would take these concerns into consideration, but argued that the city needs to move forward on its on-site lounge licensing plans.

Cannabis advocates in many states have argued for the necessity of on-site lounges, but most municipalities don't understand why such facilities are important to legalization. Colorado is currently processing license applications for pot lounges across the state, and its capital, Denver, already passed a resolution to allow stand-alone vape and edible lounges in 2016. Las Vegas recently approved a bill to permit on-site consumption at dispensaries, and Alaska also passed a law allowing dispensaries to open on-site "tasting rooms." California has gotten in on the mix, too: Last fall, America's first legal pot cafe opened in West Hollywood, and another is set to open this year.