Wheeling cannabis dispensary wants to open consumption lounge

A relatively new cannabis dispensary in Wheeling wants to expand by opening one of the first consumption lounges in the suburbs.

The lounge would operate within the existing Okay Cannabis dispensary, 781 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Customers would be able to enjoy many - but not all - of its products. While smoking would be OK, gobbling gummies or other cannabis-infused edibles would be forbidden.

"It's a control issue, I am told," Village Manager Jon Sfondilis said. "Smoke it, and you get higher faster and come down faster. Ingest it (and) it's more open-ended."

Wheeling's plan commission, which advises the village board on development-related issues, reviewed the proposal Wednesday night and voted 5-1 to recommend approval of a special use permit for the lounge.

Chairman Don Johnson cast the lone "no" vote without explanation.

The village board could discuss the proposal at its May 15 meeting.

Although the state law that legalized the sale and possession of regulated cannabis starting in 2020 allows municipalities to allow on-site pot consumption at licensed dispensaries, lounges are rare in Illinois. The only one in the Chicago area is at Rise in Mundelein.

Okay Cannabis opened in early February in a building shared with West Town Bakery Cafe & Lounge. Both businesses are part of the Chicago-based Fifty/50 Group.

Under Okay Cannabis' proposal, lounge reservations would be required and limited to 90 minutes, with an additional 30-minute cool-down period during which consumption wouldn't be allowed, Fifty/50 co-owner Scott Weiner told the commission Wednesday. Private rentals of the space would be exempt from the time limit.

Nonalcoholic beverages and drug-free food, such as pastries from the adjoining bakery, would be available for purchase, Weiner said.

The lounge would have seven or eight tables, but the space would resemble a family room more than a restaurant, Weiner said.

A powerful exhaust system would prevent the space from resembling a smoke-filled cigar room, Weiner said.

Wheeling officials are recommending the board insist on several rules for the lounge, such as:

• Limiting patrons to using products purchased the same day at the dispensary.

• Requiring patrons to use pipes or other smoking devices purchased at Okay Cannabis.

• Forbidding cannabis products from being provided, offered or distributed as samples in the lounge.

Additionally, just like at dispensaries, state law would require lounge patrons to be at least 21 years old.

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  The Okay Cannabis dispensary in Wheeling wants to open one of the first consumption lounges in the suburbs. Brian Hill/
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