Las Vegas City Council Approves Cannabis Consumption Lounges

The Las Vegas strip is about to get even more lit.

Members of the city council cleared the way for the opening of cannabis consumption lounges, voting 5-1 on Wednesday against a motion that would have had Las Vegas opt out of allowing those businesses, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The vote came after the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board in June gave its final sign off on the establishments.

The board laid out procedures for would-be lounge owners at the time.

“In addition to outlining the licensing and operation of consumption lounges, regulations approved today lay the groundwork for greater inclusion within Nevada’s cannabis industry,” the board said in a June release. “All applicants must submit a diversity plan, summarizing actionable steps and goals for meaningful inclusion. Additionally, half of the independent consumption lounge licenses in the initial round must be awarded to social equity applicants.”

“Prior to an open licensing period, the [Cannabis Compliance Board] plans to roll out tools and resources including worksheets, video tutorials and live webinars in order to ensure interested parties have access to the same information and are able to successfully submit an application,” the release continued. “The CCB expects to open the first licensing round for consumption lounges in the Fall, allowing for the first consumption lounges to open as early as the end of the year.”

That final regulatory approval came nearly a year after Nevada state lawmakers approved funding for the Cannabis Compliance Board, which has been charged with overseeing the consumption lounges in the state.

Cities in Nevada could opt out of allowing the consumption lounges in their jurisdictions. According to the Review-Journal, by “not responding to a letter from the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board earlier this month, the city automatically opted in to the licensing process, but still had an opportunity Wednesday to change course.”

Councilwoman Victoria Seaman filed the motion to opt out, but it was voted down 5-1 on Monday.

Seaman said constituents had told her that “they would rather not have them in the residential areas and have them more in the tourist areas, so, I’m not going to be supporting this,” as quoted by the Review-Journal.

But others view the lounges as yet another boon for Las Vegas’ vibrant tourism industry. It will also provide refuge for the thousands of out-of-towners who descend upon the city each week. As local news station KSNV put it, the state’s “current law leaves many from out of town consuming the drug illegally, either on the streets or a hotel room,” but the cannabis lounges will change that.

According to the Review-Journal, the lounges “will allow marijuana customers to smoke the drug legally for the first time outside of private homes since voters legalized recreational use in 2016.”

“I think it’s important for the city to consider the business opportunity that consumption lounges will bring, and also some relief of issues we’re currently hearing about a lot because we’re not offering a place for folks to actually consume when they buy,” Councilwoman Olivia Diaz told the Review-Journal after the vote on Wednesday. “We have still some way to go and some more work to do.”

The newspaper reported that there will be 20 licenses awarded throughout the state for cannabis consumption lounges, half of which will be given to social equity applicants, individuals from communities that have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.

The Cannabis Compliance Board announced earlier this month that the application period for prospective cannabis consumption lounge owners will open on October 14 and conclude on October 22.

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Nevada Regulators Give Final Approval for Cannabis Lounges

Regulators in Nevada on Tuesday gave the final sign-off to cannabis consumption lounges, paving the way for the establishments to perhaps open up by year’s end.

The state’s Cannabis Compliance Board voted on a slate of regulations for the lounges, a crucial regulatory hurdle in a process that has been nearly a year in the making.

According to local news station KLAS, some of the regulations approved by the board on Tuesday “included safety protocols at lounges, training requirements for staff, and location requirements for the lounges,” such as “certain distances from locations such as schools and community facilities.”

It was last August when Nevada lawmakers approved funding that had been requested by the Cannabis Compliance Board to hire staff and provide other support in the regulation of the lounges.

The Nevada Independent reported at the time that a legislative committee “unanimously approved three items that will provide the [Cannabis Compliance Board] with funds to hire more staff, work with the state attorney general’s office to hammer out regulations, and direct cannabis revenue toward education funding.”

Tyler Klimas, the executive director of the Cannabis Compliance Board, told the legislative committee at the time that the additional funding helped put the state on track to have the lounges open “at least the first quarter, or the first half of 2022.”

“Not only to see the lounges open, but then also the first part is where we would start to realize that revenue,” he said at the time.

Tuesday’s vote apparently keeps that timetable in place, with the Las Vegas Sun reporting that the board said the “first state-sanctioned cannabis consumption lounges could potentially open before the end of the year.”

It has been a long time coming for the Cannabis Compliance Board, which noted in a press release on Tuesday that it held 15 public meetings to go over potential regulations for the consumption lounges.

The board also provided details for prospective lounge owners.

“In addition to outlining the licensing and operation of consumption lounges, regulations approved today lay the groundwork for greater inclusion within Nevada’s cannabis industry,” the board said in the press release. “All applicants must submit a diversity plan, summarizing actionable steps and goals for meaningful inclusion. Additionally, half of the independent consumption lounge licenses in the initial round must be awarded to social equity applicants.”

“Prior to an open licensing period, the [Cannabis Compliance Board] plans to roll out tools and resources including worksheets, video tutorials and live webinars in order to ensure interested parties have access to the same information and are able to successfully submit an application,” the release continued. “The CCB expects to open the first licensing round for consumption lounges in the Fall, allowing for the first consumption lounges to open as early as the end of the year.”

Local news outlet KLAS reported that the Cannabis Compliance Board expects “40 to 45 applications for lounges attached to retail shops and 20 independent shops, 10 of which will go to social equity applicants.”

“What we are looking for is the impacts of drug policy on individuals and members of the community. We are looking at poverty level, we are looking at any past convictions of cannabis,” Klimas said, as quoted by KLAS.

Nevada legalized recreational cannabis use for adults back in 2017, but consumption has been confined to the private homes of individuals. That, of course, hasn’t stopped people from toking up in public. As The Street said, “while it is not technically legal to light up a joint while walking the Strip…the aroma in the air suggests that it’s happening quite regularly.”

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