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Springfield On Track To Get Marijuana Lounge

Sam Dunklau
NPR Illinois 91.9 FM
Customers wait to be called into the dispensary checkout area at HCI Alternatives in Springfield on Jan. 1

A recreational marijuana lounge is coming to downtown Springfield. The City Council on Tuesday granted one of the first permits to open an establishment specifically for the consumption of marijuana. It also allows on-site consumption at the dispensary.

HCI Alternatives, which will soon go by the name Illinois Supply and Provisions, plans to open the lounge next to its current dispensary on Adams Street. It would accommodate an estimated 150 people.

While most aldermen supported the permit, Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin raised concerns about the safety of having that many people leaving the lounge at the same time when it closes.

“I'm worried about the change to the character of our downtown and putting at risk our downtown with the activity created by the on-site consumption, and folks getting high and drinking also,” he said.

Chris Stone, a senior advisor to Ascend Illinois – which owns the shop, tried to address the worries.

“There is some responsibility on us to make sure they’re getting home safely,” Stone said. “So if it’s getting them a Lyft, getting them an Uber, getting them a taxi, making sure they can walk back to the hotels nearby, if they’re staying at the hotels, we want to make sure they get home safely.”

Stone said the lounge could open in April.

Ward 3 Ald. Doris Turner, who co-sponsored the rules to allow pot sales in the city, said there are a lot of restrictions around where a person can smoke now. For example, marijuana use is not allowed in public housing, and landlords can decide if it’s permissible in their rental apartments.

“These on-site lounges provide some safety for individuals who are 21 and over that want to consume a legal product, and I believe that people will be responsible and they will react and act in the same way [as] if they go downtown to a bar,” Turner said.

The state’s recreational marijuana law created an exemption for the cafes to Illinois’ ban on smoking in public, which took effect in 2008. The exemption is modeled after an exemption for cigar lounges.

Meanwhile, Ascend Illinois also plans to open a second dispensary, off Dirksen Parkway at 3201 Horizon Drive, bringing the total number in the Springfield area to three. Stone said they could eventually open a lounge there as well.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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