Although Las Vegas was set to open a slew of cannabis lounges in the coming months, giving pot consumers a place where they can smoke weed in a social setting, a bill being pushed through the Nevada Assembly could end up delaying this concept. Its success could mean that the millions of tourists that pour into Sin City may have to wait a few years before they have access to the Amsterdam-style consumption areas that many advocates say are needed right now.
It was just last week that lawmakers advanced a bill to the state Senate (39-1) intended to create a Cannabis Advisory Commission and Board. The goal of this action is to take cannabis licensing and regulation out of the hands of the Department of Taxation and give it to the board.
However, with this move comes a potential snag for cannabis lounges. An amendment attached to the bill would also postpone the launch of these venues in Las Vegas for two years to give the board time to research how these types of establishments should operate.
It was a wild card thrown down by the general counsel of Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak. “The governor believes that it’s better to address the issue of consumption lounges the right way than the quick way,” said Helen Kalla, a spokesperson for Sisolak’s office, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
If the amendment survives the Senate and moves on to the governor for a signature, it spells bad news for Las Vegas and its mission to bring cannabis lounges to the scene sooner rather than later. The amendment, which would supersede any local ordinance, would mean that the city could not move forward with this plan to set up consumption lounges until around July of 2021.
Las Vegas welcomes nearly 40 million tourists every year. For decades, these visits have been about gambling, fight nights and the kind of debaucherous affairs that gave birth to the phrase “What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas.” But ever since the state legalized marijuana for recreational use, people have been showing up in Las Vegas for legal weed. Unfortunately, without cannabis lounges, there is nowhere for these folks to go and consume the herb without breaking the rules.
This is the reason the Las Vegas City Council recently approved a measure to allow these lounges to emerge. “We can’t wait for the state to act,” Councilman Bob Coffin said last month before the vote.
Cannabis advocates are now concerned that the proposed freeze on Vegas consumption lounges is just the governor’s ploy to gain control over the situation. Some feel that if Nevada wants to study how cannabis lounges work, then it only makes sense to allow the Vegas ordinance to progress as planned.
“We should let that ordinance proceed so we can have some of these businesses open and use that data to inform this quote-unquote ‘study,’” said Scot Rutledge, a partner with Argentum Partners, a cannabis lobbying firm. “I don’t see how you can study a thing if you don’t have a thing to study.”
Some lawmakers do not agree with the moratorium at all. In fact, Assemblyman Al Kramer, the one vote against the measure, says there is no reason to build a “new bureaucracy.” He believes Las Vegas should get to move ahead with consumption lounges without the state playing interference.
But it is up to the Senate to determine what happens next.