Bobby Burns.

Evanston alders advanced a plan Tuesday night to repeal health rules that bar on-site consumption of cannabis at any licensed business in the city.

Concerns about cancer and other health risks appeared to be outweighed for some members of the Human Services Committee by the vision of generating more tax revenue for the city’s pot-tax-funded reparations program.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) said cannabis consumption lounges are allowed under state law. He called it “a revenue and entertainment opportunity — similar to alcohol.”

And Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) said he’s been trying to recruit more dispensaries to Evanston and has found that many are interested in also having on-site cannabis consumption.

But Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said she tended to agree with Don Zeigler, chair of the city’s Health Advisory Council, that the change would be a mistake.

Don Zeigler.

During public comment, Zeigler, who teaches public health courses at Loyola University and the University of Illinois Chicago, said allowing cannabis smoking in places where it’s now prohibited would undermine laws protecting people from secondhand smoke.

He cited statements from the American Lung Association that marijuana smoke is harmful to lung health.

Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) said he was most concerned about staff that might work in such lounges — assuring that the businesses had sufficient air filtration to reduce secondhand smoke.

Reid said he agreed that air filtration is “one of the most important factors.”

He suggested that an ordinance permitting cannabis consumption lounges should treat them as a special uses that would require a hearing before the Land Use Commission and then City Council approval.

But Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) said she was “very nervous” about the proposal.

Krissie Harris.

She said she was concerned about associating it with the city’s reparations program in the event the concept “doesn’t do well.”

“I think we need to have a lot of discussion about this topic,” she added.

But Burns said, “The way we adopted our reparations ordinance, it is literally tied to our ability to expand our cannabis businesses.”

The committee asked staff to prepare proposed changes to the city code to allow the cannabis lounges that the committee could then consider at a future meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. What are members of the Human Services Committee smoking? They need to get to work on the real human services issues plaguing the majority of residents in our city.

    Didn’t City Council just approve allocating certain real estate transfer taxes to reparations?

    Is anyone tracking and auditing the entire reparations program, that is anyone who can do so in an unbiased and ethical manner?

  2. Seems if Northwestern is gonna be allowed to serve alcohol whenever they want and then use the tax revenue as the bait for Evanston, why can’t we have places where cannabis is consumed to generate additional income? If you don’t want the secondhand smoke, don’t go there. Also, there are smoke removal systems that are pretty effective.

    1. So, to follow your logic … (if you don’t want exposure to second-hand smoke, don’t go there) … you would be in favor of allowing cigarette smoking, as well?

      1. Why would you hang out at a cannabis lounge if you didn’t want smoke exposure? How would this change your life? You complain about cigar lounges too?

        1. How many cigar lounges are there in Evanston or in any Chicago suburb? Tie all this to reparations, not a good look Burns or Reid…once again another ridiculous idea instead of focusing on what City Council should be focusing on.

        2. Willie, I am not following your reply. But to clarify my point … you cannot make a case for allowing cannabis lounges that would exclude advocacy for dedicated cigar and/or cigarette-smoking lounges.

          1. Cannabis smoking is not as detrimental to one’s health as cigar or cigarette-smoking. On that basis, there are no grounds to build cigar and cigarette lounges. Nice try.

          2. Panz …

            Nice try?

            A study conducted by the American Heart Association found that just a few minutes of exposure to second-hand marijuana smoke can impair blood vessel function in a similar way to second-hand tobacco smoke. The researchers found that the blood vessels of non-smoking subjects exposed to second-hand marijuana smoke experienced decreased blood flow, a key factor in the development of cardiovascular disease.

            Another study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that second-hand marijuana smoke can contain many of the same toxicants and carcinogens found in second-hand tobacco smoke, including benzene and benzo[a]pyrene. These substances are known to be harmful to human health and have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

            Journal and CDC reference links appear below.

            My point is simply that any proposal that would consider the legalization of cannabis smoking lounges could not exclude the simultaneous inclusion of cigar or cigarette smoking lounges on the basis of a health argument. In other words, you can’t be a hypocrite simply because you want to create a tax base.


  3. I am not surprised that this proposal comes from Alderperson Devon Reid We know smoking is dangerous for your health but what the …………. “It will be good for revenue and entertainment “. Let’s put it next to a casino in downtown Evanston

    1. It doesn’t only seem unethical, it is unethical! Burns is taking a page right out of the Chicago aldermanic playbook. Not really a surprise based on numerous conflicts of interest surrounding him.

  4. So our Alders seem to want Evanston to be not only known for our insanely high property taxes and our wandering aggressive vagrancy problem, but they also want our city to stink to high heaven? Guess I’m not surprised.

  5. No, no, no, please. We don’t need more people who are overly relaxed out on the streets driving. If they want to smoke with friends, do it in their own homes. We have plenty of bars and taverns that already need extra police attention due to reduced mindfulness. Not something Evanston needs at all. This should be more of a community to raise a family well.

  6. The City of Evanston has been “looking the other way” for years while a consistent flow of people use the lakefront as a “cannabis consumption lounge.” They haven’t worried about the health risks of high people getting in their cars to return to their homes. Nor have they worried about the nuisance created by allowing this practice to continue for years. I guess they only have a problem when they actually have to formally sanction this behavior.

  7. This is degrading! If I were an Evanston Black I would be demeaned by the suggestion that in order to pay “reparations” to me, the city must open a mind-altering drug smoking salon!
    I can think of much better reparations which will last for a LIFETIME: To make sure that EVERY BLACK CHILD in our UBERLY WEALTHY Evanston school system graduates from high school with the ability to secure a fruitful and fulfilling life rather than a one time “gift” from unknowing drug smoking Evanstonians.
    Think of Frederick Douglas….Booker T Washington….Burgess Owens….Marva Collins… Martha Jones….. And so many others who became highly successful through education!
    Think of this: our Evanston children, and it includes black children, spend 13 YEARS in our super wealthy and super equipped Evanston schools!! Yet too many of them “graduate” without the necessary skills to secure that fruitful and fulfilling future. We watch every single superintendent step into his job promising to eliminate/reduce the despicable gap. But as former board member Judy Sirinsky said in 1991, “We’ve got highly paid professional educators (and) this is possibly the most disappointing thing that I’ve faced in a non professional experience in my entire life: that I walked through that door, 1314 Ridge almost 12 years ago, with a 40% gap which nobody knew about because we weren’t telling anybody! And I’m walking out the door 12 years later and we still got the same gap. We haven’t done anything about it.”

    1. Education only works if the families that have children value education. This has been known for a very long time.

      The place to spend resources & effort is on families with young children before they enter the school system. If the first time a child is exposed to an educational environment is kindergarten, then it’s too late for most.

      We overfocus on how & why children do not thrive in schools, but the answers are to be had in changing the minds of their parents regarding valuing education before they’ve set foot inside a school for day 1 of kindergarten.

      Throwing money at people & building proximal schools won’t change what’s needed, but it’s easier to try that & blame everyone else for the problem when it persists.

      The answer isn’t socialism & what McWhorter eloquently lays out as cult-like/religious dogma. The answer to persistent educational underachievement is having parents value education & then passing that on to their children.

      This isn’t being adequately addressed in Evanston. Instead, we’re getting the bigotry of low expectations via lowering standards of success for our D65 children & funding the throwing of money at people by inviting drug selling & drug use in our community.

  8. How about we fund more facilities and programs for kids? Art programs? Language programs? Sports programs? Facilities?

    I have to take my kids to Skokie or Wilmette for sports because Evanston barely has any.

    We’re focused on the past – the past is the past. It’s F’ed up what happened but we need to focus on the future and keep our children engaged and active.

    Robert Crown is amazing – we need more of that.

    If we don’t then we’re going to owe our children reparations for not giving them the best they deserve.

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