- The Washington Times - Friday, July 9, 2021

A former bank in Sesser, Illinois, a small town roughly 300 miles south of Chicago, is set to become the site of the state’s first legal “cannabis consumption lounge” when it opens this weekend.

For an entry fee of $4.20, patrons of the Luna Lounge will be able to legally smoke marijuana inside the former Bank of Sesser beginning Saturday, when the establishment celebrates its grand opening.

“We’re providing a place to smoke cannabis, just like a bar — but with no alcohol,” owner Holly Roeder told the Chicago Tribune recently.

Illinois legalized marijuana in 2019, and state law allows localities to “authorize or permit the on-premises consumption of cannabis,” either at a dispensary or shop that mainly sells smoking accessories.

Ms. Roeder proposed her plans for a cannabis consumption lounge to the Sesser City Council in March 2020, and its members voted 4-2 in favor of moving ahead with making it happen.

“We want Sesser to be a destination for tourism and other aspects,” Mayor C. Jason Ashmore, an independent, told WSIL News 3 in March. “The more options we have, the more people we’re going to bring.”

“I don’t partake, but just like every new business, I’m going to show up and show my support,” Mr. Ashmore told the Tribune more recently. “We’re hoping it will help Sesser grow.”

Luna Lounge will not sell marijuana, so patrons will have to bring their own pot. No marijuana dispensaries exist in Sesser, a city of less than 2,000 residents, but several are within a short drive.

The establishment intends to offer a variety of smoking accessories. Customers may bring their own rolling papers or wraps, but pipes and other contraptions must be rented or purchased on site.

The city council in Springfield, the second-largest city in Illinois, voted in January 2020 to approve plans for what officials anticipated to be the state’s first consumption lounge. It never came to fruition, however.

Sesser is roughly 90 miles southeast of St. Louis, the nearest major city. The closest legal marijuana dispensaries to Sesser are in Mt. Vernon to its north and Marion to its south.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, although most states have legalized its use for recreational or medicinal purposes. Nationwide, legal consumption lounges are few and far between, however.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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