Derrick Cabrera, community advocacy director for the American Heart Association.

Rejecting concerns of health advocates, members of Evanston’s Human Services Committee voted 3-2 Monday night to allow cannabis smoking establishments in the city.

During public comment, Derrick Cabrera, community advocacy director for the American Heart Association, said his group strongly opposes creating public places where people can smoke cannabis because cannabis smoke contains many of the same cancer causing chemicals that are in tobacco smoke.

Janet Kirby.

Janet Kirby, an Evanston psychiatrist, said cannabis has adverse effects on the brain — especially in young adults whose brains aren’t yet fully developed.

It can damage the ability to make good judgments and self-regulate behavior, she said, adding that cannabis users are at three times as much risk as other people of attempting suicide.

“Some adults can get away with using a little pot now and then,” Kirby said, “but not emerging adults.”

Matthew Brewer, CEO Family Roots Dispensary

But Matthew Brewer, CEO of Family Roots Dispensary, which has won a social equity license to open what would be the first Black-owned dispensary on Chicago’s south side, said he hopes to also open a dispensary in Evanston.

He said opposition to cannabis consumption lounges is rooted in opposition to marijuana legalization.

Dispensaries “are some of the most regulated spaces a person can ever be in,” with cameras taking in every angle of the space.

He said a consumption lounge in Evanston “could advance equity” and create opportunities for minorities where the broader cannabis industry has not.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th), who sponsored the proposal, said that with the filtration systems required for lounges, smoking there would avoid the risk to “other folks who don’t want to be exposed” when a pot user lights up at home.

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) said the committee shouldn’t be debating the moral issue of whether adults should be allowed to consume legal substances.

He said that unlike “back in the day” when cigarette smoking was allowed in restaurants, cannabis lounges under state law are forbidden from serving food or alcohol, so the cannabis smoke “does not impact anyone else who does not want to inhale it.”

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said she was concerned about workers in the lounges who might not be well informed about the dangers of the smoke they would be exposed to.

Given her long history of advocating for clean air acts, “I’m going to choose to go with our public health professionals’ input this evening and oppose this ordinance,” she said.

Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) said she agreed with Revelle — “it’s counterproductive to the clean air act.”

But Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) said, “As long as there’s an adequate air filtration system so it doesn’t affect the staff, I don’t see any problem with this.”

The first cannabis lounge in the Chicago area opened last April at the Rise dispensary in Mundelein.

Any additional cannabis establishment in the city would add to the tax revenue that’s being used to fund the city’s reparations program.

Under the proposed ordinance any cannabis lounge proposal would require individual approval as a special use by the City Council

The proposed ordinance now goes to the full City Council for introduction, likely next Monday. Final action, then, could come at the Council’s Feb. 27 meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. I’m all for this.

    I think we should continue this movement to support marginalized groups and convert the vacant where the Urban Outfitters or Terra & Vine was into a Strip Club. I have met dozens of Professional Dancers in my life due to the number of business trips I’ve had to take. I was never up to support the cause however, after frequenting so many of these strip clubs and getting to know dozens and dozens of strippers, almost every single one of them told me how much working for a strip club saved their lives, allowed them to pay off college debt, become independent, etc. Heck, a large sum of these hard working women offered to give me their phone number as they worked as escorts outside of the club.

    Let’s keep this positive social progressivism going, support indepedent women, and try to get a Strip Club opened as the next major attraction in the Downtown Corridor! If we have the gaul and are truly progressive, let’s allow an adjacent brothel too!

    Those is in Support say “AYE”!

    1. Speaking of marginalized groups, let’s keep going and lease out the Harley Clarke mansion for x-rated movie screenings. What a fantastic way to fill the coffers and help the underserved. Alderpersons could hold fundraisers and sell popcorn for the performances. Perhaps add in meeting spaces for hate groups to exercise their freedom of speech & close that fundamentalist loop so that the far left & right are indistinguishable. Maybe have shuttle buses to the cannabis lounges during evenings & weekends. True believers united in purpose & profit.

    2. So stripping off your clothes for the entertainment of others plus selling your body for sex is a form of positive social progressivism, and a means of supporting marginalized groups?—-I’ll have to ponder that one for awhile…In the meantime I can’t help but think of something possibly overlooked regarding actual point of article—-Cannabis Lounges—that being “under the influence” and driving…As for example, when at a restaurant or bar consuming alcohol, the responsibility is on patron to not meet or exceed a BAC of .08—being it’s possible for the patron to have their wine, dinner and get back to their car sober by legal standards—-yet once marijuana is smoked one is automatically under the influence and therefore incapable of driving by Illinois law…As stated here in State of Illinois driving under influence of marijuana—-”Because of the way marijuana works in the body, you can end up with a DUI charge even when you are not high. The threshold amounts of THC for a marijuana DUI are microscopic. A nanogram is one billionth of a gram, so you can see how easily the concentration of THC in your blood can reach the threshold. THC is fat soluble and remains detectable in the body for hours or sometimes days after someone uses marijuana”…So if the city council allows Cannabis Lounges, and obviously many patrons of the lounges will get there by driving, then the city council has yet to address where they stand on getting high in the lounge and then driving.

      1. “Real Change Starts with Action” is clear satire, John….The second to last sentence is a dead giveaway. I thought it was a humorous post that definitely made its point in an effective manner.

  2. How will the dispensary ensure that people aren’t too impaired to drive when they leave? This sounds so dangerous to me. If I had had access to this as a teenager with a fake ID (which is probably even easier to come by now than in 1995), I would have been really harmed by the access to this.

  3. I feel they should allow smoke /vape Cannabis in public areas. Including certain enclosed areas They need to establish designate establishments where you can consume Cannabis like a Cannabis bar where they sell infused and alcohol inside. Canada has it legal in many outdoor places (eg. Public sideways, and parks) includes enclosed areas long term care homes. Those claiming side effects. So does all prescription drugs have more side effects than Cannabis. Alcohol in my opinion is so much worse. You have never heard anyone commit suicide under the influence of Cannabis. Because they had forgotten about committing suicide

    1. Couldn’t agree more Peter—-Mr Brewer stated “could advance equity” and create opportunities for minorities where the broader cannabis industry has not”—-I’m totally lost on anything of tangible substance here?

      1. I think **perhaps** the equity argument could be made for Evanston ONLY (not Chicago) because of this key line:

        “Any additional cannabis establishment in the city would add to the tax revenue that’s being used to fund the city’s reparations program.”

        That is the main reason the city may support it. They want additional funding sources for reparations. Right now, there is a single dispensary + (recently) real estate transfer taxes on properties over $1.5M; the reparations coffers aren’t being filled as quickly as they would like, so they want anything that would expedite revenue generation. The city wouldn’t support cigar lounges because that wouldn’t fund reparations.

  4. Let’s inform the workers in the lounges of the dangers they face from second hand smoke, maybe by requiring them to sign a simple acknowledgement statement, and then let them make their own choice as adults. The type of people who would be working there are probably seeking out this specific type of employer, smoke and all. Enough nanny state! The issues of ‘do we want to be that kind of community?’ or the problem of weed impaired drivers have more substance if discussing the public good.

  5. The hypocrisy displayed here on how marijuana vs alcohol is treated in the US and in Evanston makes zero sense. Why are they treated so differently? Any establishment that sells alcohol should be banned. How many alcohol related deaths are there in the US? How many marijuana related deaths are there? Do some research for yourself.

    1. So, 2 wrongs make a right? Why not go whole hog & have heroin cantinas? We’ve a chance to really look at whether this is healthy & safe whereas we didn’t regarding alcohol- that was yet another failure of previous generations that was let out of Pandora’s box. The push to do this quickly & as much as possible is a problem that seems avoidable. Perhaps you could take your own advice & advocate we do some longer term research before opening pot bars. You noted alcohol’s issues- do you wish to compound it by adding another substance of abuse for Evanston & society?

  6. Did Ald. Bobby Burns recuse him self or did he vote? Doesn’t he have a conflict of interest in this matter as a one of the 40 people to receive a marijuana craft grow license from the State of Illinois?

    Also did the issue of DUI’s come up? Whose responsibility will it be to make sure that customers are not allowed to drive high? How does Evanston Police enforce marijuana DUI’s currently?

  7. Personally I’m indifferent one way or the other on pot smoking lounges. People don’t like it for whatever reason, don’t go. My only concern is the driving under influence issue.

    But isn’t aldermen Burns connected to a pot growing business? Growing pot in order to sell to distributers and potentially pot smoking lounges? Would that company be allowed to sell to any dispensary or smoking lounges in Evanston? If so is that maybe why Burns is pushing so hard to have this passed and wouldn’t that be a huge conflict of interest, possibly even illegal for an aldermen to advocate for? Just wondering.

  8. Great idea! That will be a great place for the Margarita Inn residents to hang out and spend their money when they’re not actively panhandling. And what a surprise that Alderman Reid sponsored it! Let’s go ahead and legalize psychedelic mushrooms while we’re at it. More easy tax revenue, right?

  9. Peter and John, I totally agree with you, and scratching my head over how opening pot lounges in Evanston is going to advance equity? Not only is the statement offensive, but it strikes me as inequitable. The person who made this statement obviously has a vested interest since his plans include opening a dispensary here. What a shame that this committee is even spending time on this silly idea.

  10. Im not sure I understand the problem. In my experience folks have found plenty of places to smoke marijuana in Evanston. I get to experience it nearly every time I walk down a city street, sit on a park bench, go to the beach, eat at a table at fountain square, and in the gym locker room in the former LA fitness downtown. I even have a neighbor who shares his smoke from across the alley almost every evening and again early in the morning. And don’t worry about the laws preventing it from being consumed near school, nobody would dare enforce it so that’s not a problem.

    This is a regular part of public life throughout Evanston that I now get to find creative stories to explain “that smell” to my young children. Children who are growing to know this to be normal.

  11. This is all so laughable. I have to laugh or I’m going to cry as this is a prime example of how our city council spends their time. We couldn’t get a Tilted Kilt approved and now we want pot lounges to advance equity. Minorities and people of color need pot lounges. That is offensive.

  12. To borrow a line from “Field of Dreams” “If you build it they will come “

  13. I have it on good authority that slot machines might be coming to Evanston. Mayor Biss is looking into it

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