Long awaited cannabis consumption lounges in Illinois took 18 months to launch after the state legalized recreational marijuana at the beginning of 2020. But with two lounges now in business and several more preparing to open in the coming weeks, all signs have so far been positive.
Consumption venues in DeKalb, located 70 miles west of Chicago, and the tiny southern town of Sesser have attracted thousands of visitors since opening earlier this summer.
Aroma’s Hookah Bar in DeKalb sets aside at least four hours, seven days a week, for patrons to bring and imbibe in their own marijuana. For a $12 admission fee, people can access the lounge, which is complete with arcade and board games. Aroma’s also offers a menu of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks.
In Sesser, the Luna Lounge offers live music along with pipe and bong rentals for up to 85 people to enjoy an immersive cannabis experience. Luna charges entrance fees from $4.20 to $15 depending on the day of the week and whether any musicians are performing.
Neither venue has made any calls to police or had any significant issues with patrons since opening for marijuana consumers, their owners said. If anything, visitors are still surprised to find out they can legally imbibe there.
“This is the first time they’re being told it’s OK to use cannabis,” said Cameron Dye, owner of Aroma’s Hookah Bar. “We’re still trying to get the word out.”
Illinois, similar to the 18 other rec-legal states, bans people from smoking outside of private residences. Lounges have long been viewed as a necessary social outlet for adults 21 and over to smoke, vape, dab, eat and drink the plant – similar to a bar for alcohol or cigar lounge for tobacco. But states across the country have moved slowly on opening such venues in fear of federal retribution. U.S. law considers hemp and CBD to be legal, but still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug with “no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
The pair of open lounges in Illinois are still banned from selling cannabis because they’re not licensed dispensaries. Instead, users must buy the plant from a legal dispensary and bring it to the lounges.
A pair of other Illinois municipalities, West Peoria and Carbondale, are both preparing to open lounges in the coming weeks, according to a report from the Chicago Tribune. Officials in Chicago, though, are still far away from opening such venues. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has come out in support of cannabis lounges, but the Democrat-controlled city council has yet to approve an official proposal.