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Harrisburg council expects to debate cannabis lounge next month

By Travis DeNeal
Contributing writer
updated: 12/21/2021 9:33 AM

The Harrisburg City Council will wait until the new year to consider an ordinance that would allow a cannabis consumption lounge in town, council members say.

A consumption lounge is an area where adults 21 and older who have legally purchased cannabis may consume it. Illinois' first lounge opened in Sesser in July.

The same state law that licenses dispensaries for recreational marijuana sales allows local municipalities to authorize a cannabis consumption, location, too.

Otherwise, all cannabis use must be done in one's own home, the law stipulates.

People who rent homes, apartments or other dwellings do not necessarily have that right. A cannabis consumption lounge, however, creates a legal, private space where it may be used.

The Harrisburg council won't take up an ordinance allowing a lounge until 2022, as discussion was tabled at the Dec. 16 meeting.

"This is something we will discuss, and it should be discussed," Mayor John McPeek said. "I don't know that Harrisburg necessarily is ready for something like this."

He said he is concerned about possible community effects, like people leaving such a business still under the influence of cannabis.

Public Safety Commissioner Raymond Gunning, who voted against the city's initial ordinance in order to collect tax revenue from recreational cannabis sales, said he also is concerned about whether patrons of such a business will pose a safety issue.

"People now can purchase marijuana and smoke it or whatever in their homes, but if they are going somewhere like this to use it, are they going to be driving home while they're still high?" Gunning said. "I have a lot of questions about this."

Gunning said he is aware that someone has approached the city about opening up a lounge, so the upcoming discussion could be more than just hypothetical. He did not know who it was.

Gunning said he anticipates the council will discuss the proposed cannabis lounge ordinance in the first January council meeting.