Chicago continues to forbid cannabis lounges, but businesspeople find inventive solutions


Last year, marijuana sales in Illinois reached all-time highs, but the growth of cannabis lounges has been slower.

Illinois allows the lounges—licensed establishments that offer smoking and drinking on the premises—but with a catch. Final approval is granted to local governments.

Only a few are allowed in the state, including Rise in Mundelein, but not in Chicago.

They claim that although the city declined to provide an explanation for why they are forbidden, in 2020 Mayor Lori Lightfoot attempted to forward a plan that was blocked by City Council.

According to Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), “It’s not going to work, and there will be people smoking the stuff in illegal dens,” at the time.

The mystery: According to cannabis consultant Amy Dordek Dolisnky, some businesspeople in the area are worried about pushback on lounges will hurt the Chicago market.

Reality check: Lounges were expected to be a big part of states’ rollouts of legalized marijuana. But the pandemic slowed demand for them.

Still, analysts think that could change.

“We will soon see legal consumption lounges and permits for on-site consumption at events in every market where cannabis is legal,” Ricardo Baca of Grasslands, a cannabis-focused marketing agency, tells Axios.

“Legal on-site cannabis consumption is no longer an if; rather it’s a when — and as more states find success in these ventures, others will join the fold.”

Be smart: Right now, the Illinois law says the lounges are BYOC (bring your own cannabis). You can’t buy marijuana and consume it in the same store.

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