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Cannabis Smoking Lounges off to Successful Start in Illinois.

Cannabis smoking lounges, slow to open in Illinois since marijuana was legalized last year, are starting to get off the ground, as two have opened and more are planned across the state.

In addition to bring-your-own marijuana consumption sites operating in DeKalb and downstate Sesser, plans are in the works to open locations in West Peoria and Carbondale.

Weed remains illegal to smoke in public, such as on the street or in parks, in public buildings, and on private property such as hotels or apartments where property owners prohibit it. The lounges provide a legal place for adults 21 and over to smoke or vape — and create social gatherings to share the experience with friends or acquaintances. The lounges operating so far can’t sell cannabis, so users bring their own.

In West Peoria, investors hope to open a cannabis lounge by late fall. It would be called High Harbor, on the site of the former Sky Harbor Steak House. Organizers plan to offer comedy nights, music, educational and corporate events, and yoga classes, after renovations are complete, real estate agent Christina Patellaro said.

This summer, the City Council voted to approve zoning for the concept. Investors include Ronald DiGiacomo, founder and vice president of Trinity Compassionate Care Centers, which operates two cannabis stores nearby in Peoria.

High Harbor and Trinity plan their opening event outdoors on the West Peoria site Sept. 10 and 11, featuring vendors, artisans, live art and music, and no on-site sales of cannabis, but bring-your-own consumption.

“We hope to create an environment for people to enjoy cannabis and have some creativity,” Patellaro said.

In Carbondale, a recreational cannabis store has proposed becoming what would apparently be the first dispensary in the state to offer a consumption area. This summer, the City Council voted to allow such lounges, and Consume Cannabis is working to build the space, which would require customers to buy their product there.

“The City Council is in full support of cannabis business,” Economic Development Director Steven Mitchell said. “Cannabis has been here since cannabis has been around. Southern Illinois University got a reputation in the 1960s and ‘70s as sort of a hippie town. Lots of folks came from the Chicago area and introduced a new culture to the region, and it has remained.”

Southern Illinois University in Carbondale has a new cannabis research center, but generally prohibits cannabis on its property, so the lounge can provide an alternative. The manager of Consume Cannabis is Dr. Christine Heck, also CEO of Progressive Treatment Solutions, which is licensed to grow cannabis in East St. Louis, but who did not immediately return a request to explain her plans.

When Holly Roeder opened the Luna Lounge in rural Sesser in July, she expected to get some young stoner customers. As she discovered, the clientele turned out to be older — typically over 40, up to 90, most of them medical marijuana patients.

“We get 60- and 70-year-old dudes walking in with their tie dye,” she said. “I love that.”


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