Nevada’s New “Look” at Marijuana Lounges

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Yes, there have been legislative failures year after year when it comes to marijuana consumption lounges being able to become a part of Nevada’s landscape. But it seems that battle is not quite over yet.

Sponsoring a new bill in the Legislature is Assemblyman Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas); a bill that will legalize cannabis social use venues, allowing tourists a way to legally consume marijuana. Not only is this the best thing wealth-wise for the state, bringing in even more money for its own state and community efforts, but it’s also something that could certainly work as a staple in Nevada – alongside the bars and stunning casinos that people go there to visit each and every year.

The Assemblyman stated: “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 issue has been lingering for some time, basically ever since recreational marijuana sales became legal back in 2017. As it stands, tourists can come to Nevada and legally buy cannabis, but the only place where it can be consumed under state law is inside a private residence. And, no, hotel rooms don’t count, which most people consider more than silly. After all, if you’re a tourist, you don’t have a home there to enjoy your purchase in.

Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom grows tired of this conversation, but is never quiet about it. Considered to be Nevada’s “godfather of cannabis” because of his ability to continuously lead the charge for legalization of the cannabis industry has looked at these lounges more than once. His words: “It’s just crazy that we would encourage people from out of state to buy it knowing that as soon as they walk out the door, they’ll probably be breaking the law.”

Whether there are those who like his opinion or not, his logic is most assuredly there. Now, gaming officials – representing certainly the largest sector in Nevada – have brought opposition to these lounges from day one. Their belief is that if lounges were too close to their casinos, they could end up getting into trouble with federal law simply by having people purchase the completely legal product, but then bring it into their establishments to light up, which is completely illegal. Because of this fact, these lounges “present a compatibility issue for the gaming industry,” said Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association.

Another facet of opposition comes from Sen. Ira Hansen (R-Sparks), along with every other Republican in the Senate, who voted against creating cannabis consumption lounges back in 2017. Of course, the same people also still believe that legalizing marijuana use and possession was the wrong move. Hansen, however, did bring logic and common sense to his words recently, by saying that the time has come for a new “viewpoint” on things. “People are going to smoke this stuff,” he accepted. “They’re buying it legally now. …Why don’t we create a little place where they can go and smoke their dope?” He added: “And if it’s going to happen anyway, let’s do it in a safe, sanitary fashion.”

Marijuana tourism is a big thing for the state, and the details of this new bill are still being ironed out, with many of the fine points likely being left up to the cannabis board to decide on. But Yeager is among the majority who believe Las Vegas will see a massive surge in tourism once the pandemic is over. More and more tourists will be heading to dispensaries, especially those near the Strip and downtown Las Vegas, which means the need to approve social use venues this upcoming session is more important than ever before. As the Assemblyman stated strongly: “Going another two years without any public consumption option is probably NOT a good idea.”

And they certainly have a “prime location” to judge by in the state. One social club does actually exist in Nevada called the NuWu Cannabis Tasting Room, which opened in 2019. Owned by the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe (a sovereign nation), it’s connected to NuWu’s 16,000-square-foot marijuana superstore. Like many other businesses, the tasting room was forced to close last March due to the pandemic, but the most likely option when it comes to the idea of having social venues is the one NuWu created. By allowing licensed dispensaries to open on-site lounges where customers could consume would make for safe, sanitary places for tourists.

This is just the next step, considering that the law JUST passed last week that dispensary drive-thru operations can start up once again. Without even a discussion, the City Council rescinded a citywide restriction that had been placed on dispensary drive-thru operations in Las Vegas. The drive-thru serves customers efficiently and safely, while balancing capacity limits and other restrictions. So now all that needs to be done is to give tourists the option to drive-thru and head home, or get out of the car and rest and relax in a lounge made just for them.

We shall see how it all turns out.

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