Nevada Looks to Cannabis Lounges Becoming All the Rage
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For those who may not have visited one, a cannabis lounge is a place of relaxation where fans of cannabis and cannabis-related products can go in order to indulge in their favorite activity: consuming marijuana. They can enjoy their visit, and the plant, publicly and in a number of ways. Not only that, but the lounge seats approximately 40 to 60 people, and Nevada is looking for these to become the bars of the future – where people will exchange their glass of beer or wine for a chance to enjoy the ‘green.’
As of this date, only nine cannabis lounges exist in the U.S., with the majority in California and one operating in Denver. Because of the pandemic and the health fears that came with COVID-19, lounge openings were definitely (and rightly) put on hold. But after years of legislative failures, and being in the wake of the pandemic (hopefully), Nevada is seeing progress finally being made to allow marijuana consumption lounges to be a part of the state’s cannabis industry.
It was assemblyman Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) who sponsored a bill in the Legislature that would legalize cannabis social use venues – a big move that would allow tourists a way to legally consume marijuana in public. It’s not all about the rise in sales these lounges would bring, however. Yeager said: “We just need to provide that kind of venue so people can do it responsibly and do it the right way, if they so choose.”
This is not a new issue, by any means. In fact, Nevada has been fighting for this since the state first allowed recreational marijuana sales back in 2017. According to current rules and regulations, tourists can come to Nevada and legally buy cannabis, but the only place they can consume the product is inside a private residence. And, no, hotel rooms don’t count. Therefore, passing this legislation would also help the law enforcement community. After all, it’s silly to believe that the state would allow visitors to purchase products knowing full well that as soon as the customer walked out of the dispensary door, they’d most likely break the law and light up.
Another obstacle comes from the gaming industry, which is what Nevada is most well-known for; the casinos have their own valid concerns. Marijuana is still classified as an illicit drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which is why casino owners have opposed lounge legislation all this time. They are worried that if these were built and/or operated too close to casinos, their companies could end up being dragged down by visitors breaking federal laws when entering their establishments with cannabis in their systems.
This step was going to be taken at one point. It was in May 2019, that the Las Vegas City Council approved an ordinance to allow cannabis lounges within city limits, but before the plan could take off, the state Legislature added an amendment to a bill that barred local governments from licensing any kind of marijuana consumption business while state regulators further “studied” the topic.
Las Vegas is trying to prepare for a massive surge in tourism once the pandemic is over. It’s a shared belief that out-of-state customers will flock to Nevada’s dispensaries, especially those near the Strip and downtown Las Vegas, which makes the need to approve social use venues like these lounges as soon as possible. And is there money involved here? Of course. It’s important to note that legalizing lounges would create a new type of state marijuana license that would bring in more revenue.
The only other decision that would need to be made comes in the form of what these lounges would eventually look like if the bill passed. The most likely option would be to allow licensed dispensaries to open on-site lounges or tasting rooms for the consumer to use. Other options include stand-alone lounges, which would take less capital to get up-and-running than a typical marijuana business; and a third option of allowing already operating businesses, like coffee shops, to allow on-site consumption.
In the coming months, when the next legislative session comes to an end, Nevada will receive the ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ when it comes to opening cannabis lounges. But for now, the majority believes that the benefits far outweigh the liabilities.
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