Las Vegas became the first city in Nevada to allow social use venues when the Las Vegas City Council voted 4-1 to legalize consumption lounges on May 1. The first lounges are anticipated to open in the summer.
Councilman Bob Coffin proposed the measure and was supported by council members Michele Fiore, Cedric Crear, and Mayor Pro-Tempore Lois Tarkanian.
“I think that we need these social-use venues,” Crear said. “It allows people that are coming into town a place to go smoke legally.”
Stavros Anthony voted against the ordinance, questioning why the city needed to establish provisions for cannabis lounges now.
“I truly believe we need to take a regional approach to this,” Anthony said. “It can’t just be the city of Las Vegas.”
Mayor Carolyn Goodman abstained from the vote and cited a conflict of interest since a family member involved in the cannabis industry.
“Everybody in this industry is supportive of what this is,” said John Mueller, CEO of Acres Cannabis. “It’s not the best step, but it’s a step forward.”
The Fremont Street Experience and the Nevada Resort Association opposed passage of the ordinance.
“We’re already finding it incredibly difficult to limit public consumption with recreational [cannabis] availability,” said Patrick Hughes, CEO of the Fremont Street Experience. “We’re very concerned about expanding that industry without proper oversight similar to the gaming industry.”
President of the Nevada Resort Association Virginia Valentine asked the city to forbid any cannabis lounges from operating within 1,500 feet of gaming districts. Council members comprised and will prohibit any lounges from opening within 1,000 feet of where nonrestricted gaming is conducted.
“Casinos are not considered protective uses under our code,” said Senior City Attorney Bryan Scott, who helped write the ordinance.
In the program’s first 12 months, only existing owners of cannabis retail licenses can apply for a social-use permit. After the first year, the application process is open to anyone.
Some in the cannabis industry opposed this stipulation. One critic compared it to only allowing liquor store owners to open bars. Many oppose the one-year provision, along with the annual $5,000 license fee, saying this create barriers for others to break into the industry, especially targeting minorities and women.
“The way this is written, only a small group of businesses and individuals will be able to participate,” said Rebecca Perrick of Women Grow Las Vegas, an organization supporting women in the cannabis industry.
The new measure only applies within Las Vegas city limits. There will be venues in Downtown Las Vegas located within walking distance of hotels, casinos, bars, restaurants, and nightlife. While a domino effect is anticipated, the passage of the ordinance does not include The Strip. The iconic resort corridor is located in unincorporated Clark County Paradise Township. However, there are plans to open two lounges within walking distance of the SLS on the north end of the Strip.
Nevada is its tourist- and hospitality-based economy and visitors can buy adult-use recreational and medicinal cannabis. However, it remains illegal to consume in hotel rooms or public. With this new development, visitors can visit social-use venues to imbibe legally.
Las Vegas joins other cities including San Francisco, West Hollywood, Eureka (California), and Denver allowing the operation of lounges. Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer has signed new regulations that will allow onsite cannabis consumption located in dispensaries. Most industry experts expect them to start operating from late 2019 to early 2020.