Brian Johnson.

Evanston’s Land Use Commission voted 8-0 Wednesday night to recommend that the City Council reject a proposed zoning amendment that would permit cannabis smoking lounges in Evanston.

After hearing comment opposing the lounges from public health officials, Commissioner Brian Johnson said allowing cannabis consumption lounges would be inconsistent with the city’s existing rules that bar tobacco consumption lounges — given that they create many of the same health concerns.

Commissioner Jeanne Lindwall said such uses would not be consistent with the comprehensive general plan’s goal of creating a healthy community, although since cannabis was illegal in Illinois when the city’s comprehensive plan was adopted more than two decades ago, it doesn’t specifically address the issue.

She said it would be “a slippery slope” to allow cannabis lounges that would likely lead to legalization of tobacco lounges as well.

Lindwall said she understood that the rationale for the change was to generate more tax revenue for the city. But she said that’s not a good argument, when the proposal is so problematic from a health standpoint.

Commissioner Kiril Mirintchev said it was “better to stop it at the start” rather than wait for an application for a specific site for a lounge to come before the commission.

Commissioner Max Puchtel said he saw no “compelling swell of desire” in the community for such uses.

While no applications for an on-site cannabis consumption lounge have yet been filed with the city, Zoning Administrator Melissa Klotz says one potential applicant has expressed an interest in setting up a dispensary and lounge in the former bank building at 1633 Chicago Ave.

No one at the meeting spoke in favor of the zoning change, which has received support from three of the five council members on the city’s Human Services Committee.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. 3/22/23 Thank you Land Use Commission members who thoroughly
    discussed the Cannabis Lounge zoning issue and to credentialed public
    speakers adding forceful comments – concluding with a full vote REJECTING
    Cannabis Lounge processing forward to Council–Thank you! I appreciate the
    Chair, a business meeting leader, noting that it was a singular City Council member who initially made this proposal. Ceal Hanchar

  2. Thank you to the Land Use Commission for protecting the public health of all Evanston residents and visitors.

  3. The three Councilmembers who supported this so enthusiastically, as well as Jonathan Niuewsma, should take note of the clear shift in public tolerance for actions that erode at public safety and quality if life, particularly the 9th ward candidate. Geracaris has already shown an inadequate concern towards public safety in other votes and with interactions with the community. If anyone in the 9th Ward has not voted, consider Juan Geracaris’ flippant support of cannabis lounges as an indication of how his future voting record will look. If you live in the 9Th ward and care about public safety, please vote against Geracaris.

  4. Thank Goodness the Land Use Committee has spoken and been the voice of reason in a town that so desperately needs it. Our downtown was the place to be. Now it is one vacancy after another. Business owners are ignored and mocked when they state the obvious – too much panhandling, crime, homelessness. We tax businesses, arbitrarily instituted this “fair work week” with no outreach to operating business owners for feedback. Biss, Nieuwsma, Reid, Burns, and Geracaris bend over backwards for non starters like Pot Cafes which decrease public safety and do nothing to contribute to the town, and on the other hand demoralize honest businesses that are working day and night to survive the effects of the pandemic.
    No surprise that the businesses are fleeing and “the negativity is palpable.” What person in their right mind would try to work in a community where they want to bend the rules for homeless shelters and pot cafes, and tax and over regulate small businesses.
    Residents in the 9th Ward – Talk to your friends and get them out to vote against Geracaris so that we have one less “social worker” on the City Council instead of a the rational long term health of our City!

  5. Geracaris 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.” Oh really? Would he want his kids walking around with pot cafes on the corner? After evidence from medical professionals have advocated otherwise? He would be ok with having the general Evanston public absorb the effects of people leaving pot cafes high and walking around town? What consideration is this man giving toward public safety and general quality of life? How does this uplift our community? How does a Pot Cafe help Hispanic or Black communities? No thank you, this is not who I want leading any ward. This is not the person I want monitoring and evaluating projects for their contribution to Evanston. A “Strong No” to Geracaris. 9th Ward- get out and vote this man out.

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