Las Vegas was all geared up to become the hippest, hottest stoner travel destination in the United States when it went where not many other jurisdictions have gone before by legalizing cannabis lounges earlier this year.
The City Council recently put its seal of approval on an ordinance intended to open the doors to a slew of these consumption houses all over Sin City. It was a move that, after two years of discussion, was finally going to give the millions of visitors that touch down there every year for casino gambling and other endeavors of a debaucherous nature a new kind of freedom: the ability to smoke legal cannabis, in a social setting, without breaking any rules. But the higher-ups in the state government had different plans altogether. While Vegas was celebrating a significant victory, the governor’s office was hashing out a devious plan to spoil the fun.
It was just weeks ago that the Nevada Legislature passed a bill designed to pull the cannabis trade out of the hands of the Department of Taxation through the creation of a Cannabis Advisory Commission and Board. The measure would make all of the licensing and regulatory affairs the responsibility of the newly established agency, creating more focused controls for the state’s legal weed market.
But right before the legislation was approved by the House, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s people swooped an and offered up an amendment designed to prevent the opening of cannabis lounges for two years. The idea was that the state should spend some time studying how these establishments are going to work before they become a regular installment of Nevada commerce.
Unfortunately, the bill has since found acceptance in the State Senate and is expected to land on Sisolak’s desk any day now for a signature. Once the ink dries, giving birth to the Cannabis Advisory Commission and Board, Las Vegas can forget about cannabis lounges until around the summer of 2021. This is how long the state feels it needs to roll up its sleeves and dig in on its fact-finding mission about how to properly operate these kinds of establishments.
“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.
While doing things the right way is commendable, some cannabis industry sources say it makes more sense to go ahead and allow Las Vegas to open consumption lounges as initially planned. “I don’t see how you can study a thing if you don’t have a thing to study,” Scot Rutledge, a partner with the cannabis lobbying firm Argentum Partners, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Other cannabis advocates say the two-year moratorium creates additional problems for tourists — who were one of the main reasons that Vegas passed its social use ordinance in the first place.
While marijuana is legal for adults 21 and over, out-of-towners who purchase cannabis from Vegas dispensaries have no place to consume their product. The almost inevitable hotel-room consumption is destined to bring about unwanted issues, like unexpected cleaning fees, and toking it up in public can spawn trouble with the cops. Without any other option, visitors have no choice but to go against the grain of the law.
“We have hundreds of thousands of misdemeanors created every month based on the current law because we are encouraging people to come here, purchase it, knowing full well that there is nowhere they can use it in Clark County,” Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom, told Nevada Public Radio. “It really is an incoherent policy and a bit hypocritical.”
Some reports suggest that the gaming industry, one that is obviously not a fan of legal weed, simply has too much clout to give the cannabis trade a fair shake. The Gaming Commission has made it clear that it wants nothing to do with weed until the herb is legalized at the national level.
It’s one of the reasons that Vegas lawmakers were forced to include language in their cannabis lounge ordinance preventing these consumption sites from opening on the strip. It was pressure from the gaming group that many believe forced Gov. Sisolak to take sides on this matter, prompting the two-year pause on pot lounges. After all, gambling is the pulse of the Vegas tourist trade. Furthermore, the cannabis industry didn’t really fight much to stop the casinos from gaining control. All in all, there is nothing that can be done now to keep cannabis lounges on track in Vegas. What’s done is done.
But they will emerge… eventually.
“At the end of the day, Vegas is still the perfect place to do this, so if it takes two or three or four years, that’s just what we have to deal with,” Segerblom said.
TELL US, would you travel to a state in order to visit a cannabis lounge?