Public health advocates in Evanston fear the City Council will be voting to increase cancer deaths here if it authorizes cannabis consumption lounges in the city.

But advocates for the lounges frame the issue as a question of equity — giving people who may live in places where smoking is banned under their lease a place to legally light up.

And they see it is a way to increase revenue for the city’s reparations program, funded from cannabis sales tax revenue.

The cannabis lounge ordinance, sponsored by Ald. Devon Reid (8th), won approval from the Human Services Committee on a 3-2 vote earlier this month and is on Monday night’s City Council agenda for introduction.

Update 2/27/23: In a last-minute change, the cannabis lounge proposal was removed from Monday’s City Council agenda. No reason for its removal was given on the city website.

Under the ordinance as drafted, cannabis consumption lounges would be permitted as a special use in business, commercial, downtown and office zones within licensed cannabis dispensaries, but would have to be located in a freestanding building occupied solely by the dispensary.

In a memo to council members, Health Director Ike Ogbo said the Centers for Disease Control has determined that cannabis smoke delivers many of the same cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke.

Ogbo says approving cannabis smoking lounges would be “contrary to the long-fought endeavors to establish the city’s Clean Air Act.”

The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation argues that ventilation systems are not sufficient to address the health concerns of indoor smoking of cigarettes or cannabis and that any allowed smoking space should be outdoors, unenclosed and out of public view.

Mundelein appears to be the Illinois community closest to Evanston that has legalized cannabis lounges. Among the few others that have adopted such legislation are Springfield and Carbondale.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. “But advocates for the lounges frame the issue as a question of equity — giving people who may live in places where smoking is banned under their lease a place to legally light up.”

    You guys are abusing the term “equity” – it doesn’t even hold weight anymore. Completely watered down. The misuse of this term is the death of the word. Congrats, you did it.

    1. I’m assuming this is directed at the advocates of cannabis consumption lounges, and not the writer of this article. I might buy the “equity” argument to some extent, but it lacks consistency because NOBODY has said we need cigar/nicotine consumption lounges and that has the same restrictions in renters’ homes/apartments as marijuana. It’s interesting that the liberal viewpoint (which I share) advocates against cigar/smoking lounges because of health/environment impacts, but in this case may be in favor of of marijuana smoking lounges which share those exact same health/environmental impacts. Smoking is horrible for your health and for those around you.

      Why are they being pushed to the side suddenly? The answer and difference is clear. This provides an avenue for additional reparations funding whereas cigar lounges do not. So, the “equity” argument isn’t necessarily that the lounges themselves provide a needed avenue for smoking (although that’s what some people are saying…) but that it provides more funds for reparations. For the advocates, they believe it’s worth the negative health/environment consequences for the potential of more money being channeled into reparations whereas that tradeoff doesn’t exist for cigar lounges because they wouldn’t fund reparations at all.

  2. I would agree with Frank except that the equity issue as brought up in the Evanston Now 2/6/23 issue is about minority ownership of lounges (Matthew Brewer’s comments as quoted in the 2/6 article) and not about the right of smokers to have a place to smoke cannabis. I’m not sure where the “equity” idea as quoted in the 2/26 article came from and it would have been good for the article to have an attribution for this line of thought. Additionally, why would someone objecting to smoke even go into a cannabis lounge, vape store or cigar shop? Good regulation of ventilation should properly exhaust to the outside which is apparently acceptable to those opposing the lounges. Personally I wouldn’t be likely to patronize a cannabis lounge but I’m certainly not offended by their properly regulated existence.

    1. Hi Peter,
      The description of “the equity issue” in the story comes from the Ogbo memo that you can find at p. 184 of the City Council packet.
      It is true that equity has previously been mentioned in connection with the hope that a minority-owned cannabis dispensary might at some point in the future open in Evanston.
      — Bill

  3. Once you play the trump card “equity” you win! We only engage in virtual signaling here in Evanston Sad. This isn’t a card game

  4. Sure. But all of the income from poisoning lounges must be donated to our public hospitals, who will be encumbered to repair the deliberate health damage to citizens. It is inequitable to do otherwise.

  5. Agree with the comment above. The term “equity” has been so overused, it has been rendered meaningless. And I can’t see how this proposal increases equity. I’m trying. I really am, but can’t see it unless they feel it will cause more dispensaries to be opened which I don’t see. Skokie has the Apple Store of weed at Old Orchard and Skokie Blvd. But then Skokie has a lot more business activity than Evanston. We have non-profits.

  6. Unbelievable (or not, considering current Evanston leadership). Let’s encourage collective smoking/cancer generation under the guise of equity. There is a valid reason why smoking was banned in bars and restaurants. This activity directly causes lung cancer. Ogbo is spot on with his analysis.
    Why does anyone put up with Devon Reid’s nonsense? Oh, wait- Evanston needs more tax revenue! So we’ll just conveniently jettison reason and community health concerns. Wake up City Council. Please.

  7. More people are getting cancer from the foods your beloved restaurants serve you every day in evanston then from cannabis, what about your beloved bars that people drink at, no liver cancer I guess? Seems quite hypocritical ,yet everyone says we need to make the city more (small) buisness friendly. What about all the customers from out of town who shop at the citys ONLY dispensary where are they supposed to legally consume their products if they choose so?

  8. Please, no. Although young people are often certain cannabis is good for their health and well-being, one has only to look at Jamaica and see many young men high on reefer, perhap relaxing their ambition and reflexes for driving. Currently many people are moving away from too much alcohol consumption. Let’s not even begin to think of marijuana/cannabis as a help toward equity and opportunity.

  9. It’s time to get reasonable people on the council and on committees. Our own Health Dept. Head says this is a bad guy. He’s black, so I don’t think we can make this about privilege. We talk about health inequality among black and brown folks, but we want to open places where we can directly negatively impact this? Stop using “equity” to make guilty-feeling white people vote for bad policy. Equity doesn’t come into play when discussing weed smoking. Absolute nonsense. If you can’t smoke or drink in your place of residence, then move, break the rule, or maybe just don’t smoke weed. It’s not a God-given right. Come on. Biss doesn’t want us to be like Wilmette, but he’s cool with Carbondale? The councils and alders are turning Evanston into trash slowly but surely. 8th ward- you can do better. Start fielding candidates now. And vote.

  10. Whether from burning tobacco or marijuana, toxins and carcinogens are released from the combustion of these substances. Smoke from marijuana use contains many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens as tobacco smoke.
    Smoking marijuana clearly damages the human lung and it’s not just the smoker’s health that is threatened. Research has shown that secondhand marijuana smoke can do as much damage to the heart and blood vessels as secondhand tobacco smoke.
    Evanston has a history of standing up to Big Tobacco and reducing the impact of tobacco-related illness on communities, so allowing residents to spend more time inhaling the toxins in this smoke, either firsthand or secondhand is a step backward. We’re currently seeing epidemic vaping rates among teenagers and would do well to be mindful not to encourage marijuana exposure as well. Please don’t add cannabis lounges to Evanston. It’s misinformation that being exposed to the smoke is safer than being exposed to tobacco smoke.

  11. I dont get it, the cannabis industry is regulated within the state so all the jobs are created within our state nothing crosses the state lines unlike alcohol, yet nobody wants to admit the good being created. Yet nobody cares about all the bars or restaurents selling food that can cause cancers and other health issues as well as all the drunk drivers alcohol poisoning etc. But if ones are worried about 2nd hand smoke at a cannabis consumption lounge then dont go. But there is no moral high ground here. What you keep in your medicine cabinets is the real problem, your ever heard of alcoholism, well ive never heard of cannabisism. If anything those consumtion sites would benefit your beloved restaurents. Its 2023,its legal,and it creates jobs in illinois.

    1. I also don’t understand why people are so against this. Maybe I’m missing something, but this seems like just another type of bar to me. People do all kinds of unhealthy things from eating Halloween candy to smoking outside the Rotary building. People will do what they do, might as well make some money out of it. Kids won’t be going to these places because the legal age of purchase and consumption is 21+.

      I would be concerned for anyone who works there, though. If the establishment guarantees no employee risk / exposure for employees and that turns out not to be the case, it would be really bad for all involved. But I don’t know how these places are set up, so hopefully it’s safe.

  12. Here come the Evanston NIMBY’s. No wonder there are so many empty store fronts and businesses leaving. Who would want to do business in a town where people find reasons to complain about everything.

  13. The whole reason of consumption sites is due to the fact that its illegal to smoke cannabis out in public unlike Ciggarettes which people can smoke outside without breaking the laws. So this is a whole new industry that is trying to expand and create jobs, if its such a bad thing ,then why is the tax on cannabis funding the reparations program. If having a place to consume cannabis a bad thing then is the store that sells the cannabis zen leaf bad? What about the tax revenue they bring in, looks like they double in size and hired more staff looks like evanston shops there and supports that buisness no matter how you commentators feel look at there business its doing well. People are going smoking anyway might as well get them a nice place to do it at so they can follow the laws like people who drink alcohol.

  14. If they do open this in evanston I hope it’s a reflection of the community and is absolutely the most cringy black light poster having “lounge” filled with the 60 something year olds that run this town with their flush retirement accounts and plentiful real estate holdings as a result of all the good 401k years that they happened to live through. I can see it now – they will sit in the lounge getting high asking the other patrons to come to their sad evanston made art shows.

    1. This is hilarious and probably accurate in the sense that it will probably precipitate down to this- in the sense that at least one of them will be such a place. You described me to a tee in every regard except all of them but my age. When I want to hang out with stereo types I usually go to a music store, but I have met these people you describe so accurately. If you can string together a half hour of commentary like this without too many swear words or overt misanthropy, I would definitely pay to see your show. Good job

  15. To suggest that these lounges should be allowed for what could be done with the tax revenue, regardless of what it could be used for is a disgusting position to take, regardless of the buzzword attached to it – a totally immoral tradeoff, as it would be for gambling. This needs to be decided on other merits. I am actually for these lounges being allowed, but with significant disclaimers required for both employees and patrons to enter. The reason these should be allowed is for ‘equality of opportunity’, if I may use some out of fashion words. The adult non-residents, and non-homeowners should have the equal opportunity to make the informed choice to sacrifice some of their health for the chance to legally consume a product that is not allowed to be consumed in apartment buildings, etc. It should not be a racial issue but one of equality of opportunity for apartment/condo dwellers to have the same personal health choice and potential enjoyment (with possible health consequences) of Cannabis as Evanston’s single-family-homeowners currently have. The place of the government should be limited to forcing adequate disclosure and awareness of the personal health risks being taken.

    1. Hi Fran,
      It’s worth noting that the city does not ban smoking in apartments — as opposed to in common areas of apartment buildings.
      Nobody has provided information on what share of apartments in the city have private lease provisions banning smoking.
      Also those restrictions don’t prohibit people from ingesting cannabis in the form of edibles, just smoking it.
      — Bill

  16. The debate in this forum, the time spent on this by Human Services Committee and City Council, and any/all energy focused on this are an absolute waste of time.

    Even if this passed, the business model for operating such an establishment is likely not financially feasible and the pool of interested entrepreneurs is narrow. That is unless a Council members’ associate is waiting in the wings perhaps?

    And to Frank’s first comment regarding this as an equity issue, he is absolutely right. Devon, the rest of Council, and Mayor Biss have deceitfully and incorrectly incorporated the WORD equity in most City business to the point that it has totally lost meaning and context.

  17. What do you think about sketch book and temperance brewary those are consumption sights where chilldren are allowed, if you think a consumption place for cannabis is not a good idea or a viable buisness just park outside of zen leaf and you might be suprised who you see going in and out you will see your friends ,neighbors, spouses, people you would never beleive and guess what ,their spending cash there. The commentators dont know how many other buisnesses would collaborate with such a place this has nothing to do with devon reid, this is more or a generational thing and if people want to go to bars, and have many places to consume alcohol then why not cannabis its legal, i mean look at all the massage places around town nobodys complaining about what goes on in there. If you dont want to inhale cannabis the dont go there or work there. But dont hate on others because they dont want to consume alcohol and prefer cannabis give them the same opportunity your giving the alcohol pushers as well, the canmabis consumers are spending more money and creating more local jobs.

  18. I have yet to see anyone condemn bars and restaurants serving alcohol because it may cause liver disease. The fact of the matter is, consumption will not change by users legally consuming the product. But this is an opportunity for Evanston to increase badly needed revenues. This is something that will happen eventually. Evanston, the home of the Temperance Movement lost millions in tax revenue by not allowing alcohol for years. Now Evanston is a hot spot for dining. Weed is the next logical step. Question really is, will Evanston be an early adapter or late to the game.

    1. They will be late to the game , look at the city after 8pm no where to go to or nothing to do in a college city across the street from the 3rd largest city in the us.

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