It’s the piece of Illinois cannabis legislation nobody is talking about, and tobacco shop owners across the state are wondering how to cash in on the exemption they didn’t even know was coming.
HB1438 initially contained language that outraged some members of the public. It left the door open for businesses to allow on-site consumption with municipal approval. It was obvious that a trailer bill would need to clarify the details, but proponents for cannabis tourism were hopeful that the types of businesses eligible for on-site consumption exemptions would be broad.
Ultimately, public outcry pushed legislators to clarify the exceptions in Senate Bill 1557, dramatically limiting the types of establishments eligible to allow on-site consumption.
Tobacco shops and dispensaries are the only businesses that will be able to allow cannabis consumption on-site starting January 1, 2020 – as long as on-site consumption is approved by the local municipality and the business meets other criteria outlined in key laws.
As far as we know (please send a news tip if you know otherwise), no local municipalities have approved on-site consumption yet; however, the law does make this option available to communities.
Technically, this is not an example of public use as dispensaries and tobacco shops approved to allow on-site consumption will not legally be considered public places as defined in the Smoke Free Illinois Act.
Cannabis tourism proponents and many social equity organizations bemoan the shattered dream of cannabis lounges, but even the limited exemptions allowed are making waves.
The potential for tobacco shop owners to allow on-site cannabis consumption could be a saving grace for small businesses affected by the potential Flavored Tobacco Ban Act, still being considered by Illinois lawmakers.
The proposed ban, similar to legislation passed in Michigan, would prohibit the sale of flavored e-cigarette and tobacco products. Stores that violate the ban would risk losing their retailer’s license.
According to members of the Smoke Free Alternatives Coalition and vape business owners, prohibition could devastate their businesses.
“Flavored e-liquid makes up 98 percent of our business because adult smokers prefer flavors,” said Tim Teml, co-owner of That 1 Vape in Joliet.
Many vape shops, considered tobacco shops legally, don’t even carry tobacco products including traditional cigarettes, because their owners ardently believe that vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking.
If Illinois lawmakers move forward with a ban on flavored e-cigarette and tobacco products, these vape shop owners will be scrambling to keep the doors open. Allowing on-site cannabis consumption and diversifying inventory to include paraphernalia could be the answer.
It’s notable that this is the first time any state has included this type of on-site consumption provision in cannabis legislation.
But what municipalities (and tobacco shop owners) decide to do with it is yet to be seen.