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Question of the day

Wednesday, Sep 25, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sun-Times

(I)n a surprise move, Illinois Restaurant Association president Sam Toia opposes allowing bars and restaurants to apply for consumption licenses.

“Who gets these licenses? I don’t think you can give incidental licenses to all restaurants. There’s only gonna be so many licenses that are gonna get out and that won’t be a level playing field,” Toia said.

“We want to make sure that [recreational marijuana is] is not competing with our great culinary scene. Restaurants are here to serve food. Bars are here to serve spirits, wine and beer and show great events. So we at the restaurant association feel, just let the dispensaries dispense” and allow consumption.

* I reached out to Toia via email…

Why couldn’t they give non-smoking consumption licenses to any restaurant which applies? Several chefs will want to infuse food and drinks, so why should that all be completely banned?

* His response…

Hi Rich,

The IRA looks forward to reviewing Mayor Lightfoot and the City Council’s proposals and various concepts for cannabis consumption as conversations continue in the coming weeks. We appreciate the opportunity to be at the table on this important issue.


* The Question: Should restaurants in communities that have approved the sale of cannabis be allowed to serve food and beverages infused with cannabis? Make sure to explain your answer. And, remember, this isn’t about toking up at your local eatery.


  1. - A guy - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 2:59 pm:

    With a license, yes.

  2. - Southside Markie - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 3:02 pm:

    With a license, yes. Because of what Rich wrote about what chefs want to do with it. Also, because most restaurants work on very slim margins. Anything that allows them to make more money should be promoted. I’d think that the Restaurant Association would be in favor of that.

  3. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 3:04 pm:

    Yes. Restaurants serve alcohol, so why not pot-infused food? It’s good for business, to add that dimension to legalization, as far as sales.

    “We want to make sure that [recreational marijuana is] is not competing with our great culinary scene. Restaurants are here to serve food.”

    It could be quite complementary to food, as in the munchies. Serve some marijuana-infused appetizers (no pun intended).

  4. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 3:08 pm:

    Yes. I just don’t see the harm in people being high in restaurants, which also already happens all the time without incident.

  5. - thunderspirit - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 3:11 pm:

    Restaurants cook with alcohol all the time. Why should cooking with cannabis be different?

  6. - Last Bull Moose - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 3:16 pm:

    Will the dram act apply to impaired drivers? Will the restaurant have to make sure each table has a designated driver or can get home without driving?

  7. - OneMan - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 3:23 pm:

    My very short answer is yes but there is a fairly large ‘but’ in here.

    I think at a minimum you would need to have the same camera requirements as a retailer and the same staff licensing requirements as a retail location. That would be significant.

    Now here is where the big but comes in.
    I think you would have to require complete food segregation and/or require places that use pot in cooking to completely and very clearly disclose that at the entrance and at on the menu.

    Why, if by mistake (most likely) or on purpose you get some THC into someone’s food it might show up on a drug test down the road and cause them a real issue. Alcohol in food (or a drink) doesn’t run the risk of showing up in a drug test a week later, THC, on the other hand, can show up a week later or even longer.

    Let’s go through this scenario. You are out to eat with your teenager (who due do to being on the robotics team, the marching band or swim team, etc) and he is accidentally handed a rum and coke vs a coke and takes a sip (or even drinks the whole thing) it clears his system in an hour. The same kid is accidentally served the pot burger and gets enough THC in them that it shows up on the drug test a week or two later. The kid gets in trouble, can’t compete and no-one is going to buy the whole ‘I don’t do drugs’ argument from him.

    I think the risk of cross-contamination is something that needs to be addressed in any sort of ‘not explicitly a pot retailer’ situation.

  8. - SpfdNewb - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 3:26 pm:

    With a license that prohibits combustion-based use for restaurants that want to serve cannabis infused food, yeah no problem. It takes about an hour after eating something with cannabis in it to take effect.

    However, those restaurants though either need to be 1, alcohol free already or 2, lose their liquor license. The combination of alcohol and cannabis consumption at the same time is potent.

  9. - DuPage Saint - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 3:28 pm:

    Has the banking end of this been worked out? If a restaurant serves munchies then deposit money into a bank can Feds take it? What about deposits of the dispensaries ? Is that a cash business?

  10. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 3:36 pm:

    ===been worked out? ===

    American business will always find a way to make money.

  11. - Anonanonsir - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 3:38 pm:

    ==chefs will want to infuse food and drinks==

    That’s a convenient way to combine alcohol and weed.

    I’m taking the contrarian view here. Illinois is undergoing a lot of changes, and this change can be added later if things go smoothly.

  12. - Blue Dog Dem - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 3:41 pm:

    Rich@3:36. AttaBoy

  13. - James Knell - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 3:49 pm:

    Cannabis infused ‘high-end’ food is common in Denver and Seattle. Let the cooks cook and the diners get baked. ;)

  14. - JoanP - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 3:53 pm:

    Sure, why not? As long as the ingredient is listed on the menu, so that those who want to refrain from indulging can.

    After all, Alice B. Toklas is famous for her brownies.

  15. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 3:54 pm:

    === the banking end ===

    I thought the state chartered a bank specially for the pot business. Also, restaurants have been serving munchies way before the they legalized marijuana.

  16. - Saxman - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 4:02 pm:

    Now that it’s legal, why do we need marijuana products in your face everywhere you turn? Dispensary’s, restaurants, what next, your favorite barbershop?

  17. - Earnest - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 4:03 pm:

    Yes. I see it much less as consumption and more as a higher-end foodie/chef thing and I don’t want to deny them the fun and excitement of a new ingredient to work with. If the cost of a license is high enough you’ll be in a specialty market anyway so the unfair-competition perspective is less of a concern.

  18. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 4:08 pm:

    ===why do we need marijuana products in your face everywhere you turn?===

    Those aren’t your restaurants. They belong to the people who own them. If they believe they can make a profit and not upset their customer base, why not?

  19. - benniefly2 - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 4:42 pm:

    As mentioned above, I think the liability insurance issue is substantial. If insurance companies won’t cover THC laced dishes under existing Dram policies, a restaurant/bar owner could be one car accident that causes injuries away from having to shutter a successful eatery/lounge. I mean, if they theoretically can’t seem to figure out how to pay front of the house workers the full state minimum wage without going under, how will they pay off a lawsuit without a policy to cover it?

  20. - Kayak - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 4:44 pm:

    In response to Saxman, Springfield has a barbershop on the corner of 4th and Monroe called Hair of the Dog, BARber Shop. They serve alcohol, they cut your hair. So to answer your question yes, yes we do. In fact, I hope to see a Cannabis Cuts Cosmetology Company next every Starbucks next year.

  21. - Right Field - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 4:54 pm:

    Mix up two dishes in the kitchen, and it’s lawsuit city. Then there is family style or plate-sharing that goes on that could involve minors. Who polices that? Restaurant staff? Bad idea all around.

  22. - Donnie Elgin - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 4:54 pm:

    “Restaurants cook with alcohol all the time. Why should cooking with cannabis be different?”

    This is interesting but perhaps not 100% relevant. Having worked in restaurants in my younger days I can say that the Chef is likely attempting to capture the flavor of the particular spirit (Coq Au Vin). The majority of the alcohol is cooked off. Not sure how cooking impacts THC levels.

  23. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 5:01 pm:

    ===and it’s lawsuit city===

    If the business owners believe they can overcome that challenge, why stop them?

  24. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 5:05 pm:

    Amazing how the pro-biz types all of a sudden are against business owners making any decisions on a soon to be legal product.

  25. - Maryjane - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 5:35 pm:

    Booze puts 88,000 Americans in the ground every year and it’s very much a part of most restaurant experiences. No one has a problem with any of that, no one is calling for lawsuits. ‘Seems to me we could live with giving people another option.

    Some of the Cannabis cooking stuff I’ve seen on TV do a lot of CBD and terpene infusions with very limited THC; I suspect that’ll be the case with restaurants. I’ve tried a couple of the THC infused drinks back in Ca. and I’m looking forward to more of those. Personally, I like to make my own Cannbutter. It’s very flexible and I can control the dose.

  26. - Leslie K - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 5:36 pm:

    I guess I’m neutral on whether it should be allowed. It’s legal at the state level, so go for it. There is probably a lot of opportunity for creativity there, and I tend to be a foodie. But personally I would probably stop visiting restaurants with cannabis on the menu–at least until I retire. Cannabis is still illegal Federally, and I’m held to that standard. I can’t risk an accidental mixup (and yes, I move when concert-goers next to me choose to toke-up; and no, I don’t judge them for it).

  27. - Driving a car - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 5:41 pm:

    I don’t particularly care either way and I think Toia’s reply to you was pretty solid.

    Let’s see how it plays out.

  28. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 5:48 pm:

    “Has the banking end of this been worked out?”

    Today the US House overwhelmingly passed marijuana legislation, so maybe it can get done.

  29. - FedUp - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 6:00 pm:

    Personally I would have no issues allowing restaurants to prepare cannabis infused foods. However I suspect the legal issues with regulations would cause a problem. As it currently stands the restaurant would have to comply with all the regulations held upon dispensaries since they are dispensing. A second confounding factor is that Illinois has adopted the Federal Food Code for regulation of foodservice establishments. Under this and federal opinion CBD, THC and all cannabinoids would be adulterated and unfit for human consumption. Just an act of bureaucratic frustration for everyone based in over regulation of all aspects of our lives.

  30. - Been There - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 6:29 pm:

    I think they should. Except I think the IRA’s concern is that there will only be a limited number of licenses. Then there would be unfair competition. Kind of like Chicago and other places that don’t allow video gaming compared to nearby towns. As long as all existing places can apply and participate I’m ok.

  31. - truthtopower - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 9:56 pm:

    Why are we even asking this question? If the product is legal, restaurants should be allowed to sell it. I never heard anyone ask if restaurants should be allowed to serve alcohol.

  32. - Illinois Resident - Wednesday, Sep 25, 19 @ 11:27 pm:

    Yes. It is a legal product now. Time to start treating it that way.

  33. - Shanks - Thursday, Sep 26, 19 @ 8:13 am:

    No. Maybe only if it serves marijuana and related paraphernalia. But not my local restaurant/pub. I still get drug tested for my job and unknowingly consuming marijuana off the menu or a friends plate…or remnants of the food…

  34. - Pundent - Thursday, Sep 26, 19 @ 9:08 am:

    =But not my local restaurant/pub. I still get drug tested for my job and unknowingly consuming marijuana off the menu or a friends plate…or remnants of the food…=

    If a restaurant knowingly puts this on the menu they’re making the conscious decision that some people may not choose to dine there while other may specifically because the items are on the menu. You also have a choice. No one is forcing you to patronize a restaurant with cannabis on the menu. If more people oppose the idea than support it at the end of the day it will be a bad business decision. Not sure why the government would have to put their thumb on the scale.

  35. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Sep 26, 19 @ 9:40 am:

    ===Not sure why the government would have to put their thumb on the scale===

    There may need to be some sort of regulation, perhaps at the local level. But, nobody has ever died simply from consuming cannabis. And if people are worried they could fail a drug test, then don’t go to the restaurant. Pretty simple. Not everything in the world has to revolve around one person’s opinion.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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