The City of Las Vegas moved one step closer Wednesday to authorizing marijuana consumption lounges within the city limits, with Las Vegas City Council voting 4 to 1 in favor of the proposal. While Las Vegas is not the first city in the U.S. to allow weed consumption venues, San Francisco has that distinction, it is the first municipality in Nevada to do so, and places Las Vegas on the leading edge of that movement.
Our city is unique in the degree to which the local economy relies on out of town visitors, from which the local fledgling marijuana industry has benefited, however, tourists have been hampered by not having a location to legally consume the product. This proposal sets a new business license category for “social consumption” lounges and provides for developing regulations for such businesses.
During the first year under this new law, only current dispensary licensees will be able to apply for the $5,000 special use permit, and space for the lounges will need to be provided on the same property as the dispensaries. The lounge will have some separation from the dispensary, with no selling of weed in the lounge itself. The law also requires that air handling equipment be used to contain the smoke, and drinking alcoholic beverages will not be allowed to be served or consumed on the property. Lounges may not be located within 1000 feet of casinos or schools. The law takes effect in four months from the date of passage, and some dispensaries expect to have operational lounges ready at that time.
A short history of legal weed in Nevada
We’ve written about legalization efforts in Nevada in a previous post. Legalization was approved by a state referendum in November 2016, and the new law took effect, January 1, 2017. This law allows adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use, and to consume the product in homes only.
While it was legal to possess an ounce in January 2017, there was no legal way to buy it, until the state adopted regulations for marijuana production, distribution and sale. Regulations were adopted mid year in 2017, and recreational weed sales began. However, at that time no provision of the law allowed for any type of public consumption of the product. Tourists who came to Las Vegas to purchase the product were frustrated since they couldn’t transport it across state lines, and had no place to consume it in Nevada, unless in a private home.
Marijuana is still classified by the federal government as a Schedule 1 prohibited substance on the DEA schedule. Because of this, casino companies will not allow consumption of the product on their premises since it places them at odds with federal regulators. It is still considered illegal to consume marijuana products in casinos or hotels, and could subject a patron doing so, to ejection from the property and/or arrest.
While the legal marijuana industry has met and exceeded most business expectations, users of the substance should be aware of the limitations to use of the product, and know what activities can subject them to criminal action.
The Defenders can help if you’ve been arrested for public consumption of marijuana
Public consumption of marijuana is a crime in Nevada and could subject a visitor to the city or a local resident to arrest and prosecution. Later this year, with the opening of social consumption lounges, visitors to Las Vegas will have a legal place to consume the product. If you’ve been arrested for consuming marijuana in public or any other drug crimes in Nevada, call The Defenders to discuss your case at (702) 333-3333.