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Marijuana Consumption Lounges Inch Closer to Becoming a Reality in Nevada

A Nevada Assembly committee approved a bill that would allow on-site cannabis consumption lounges in the tourist-friendly state.

The measure, sponsored by Speaker Pro Tempore Steve Yeager (D), would establish two licensing categories for such facilities: ‘retail cannabis consumption lounges’ and ‘independent cannabis consumption lounges.’

Under Nevada’s marijuana laws, public consumption of cannabis is prohibited as well as on-site consumption at marijuana retailers, while most hotels have a ban on using it on the premises. Las Vegas City Council, however, approved a measure in 2019 allowing for on-site marijuana consumption lounges within the city’s jurisdiction.

Under Yeager’s proposal, marijuana dispensaries with the retail license would be allowed to sell cannabis that can be consumed on-site by customers 21 and older, while independent licensees would not be allowed to sell marijuana but it could be delivered or brought from another retailer and consumed on-site. Independent license holders, however, would be able to later request the state marijuana regulator – the Cannabis Compliance Board – for permission to sell their own cannabis or the cannabis of another retailer.

The Cannabis Compliance Board would be charged with drawing up the rules and regulations for on-site marijuana consumption lounges, as well as the cost of the licenses, with discounts available to social equity applicants. Such applicants are defined by the social use legislation as someone “who has been adversely affected by provisions of previous laws which criminalized activity relating to cannabis, including, without limitation, adverse effects on an owner, officer or board member of the applicant or on the geographic area in which the applicant will operate.”

Prior to the Assembly Judiciary Committee vote, Yeager introduced a raft of amendments, including the above definition of social equity applicants and a proposed scoring system for reviewing such applicants. He also proposed prohibiting customers from leaving marijuana consumption lounges with their purchased products, as well as revisions to the public safety requirements such sites must follow.

Should the measure pass into law, and with a steady stream of tourists ready to make use of the lounges, it would further boost cannabis tax revenues in Nevada. During his State of the State address in January, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) said he would use marijuana tax dollars to fund public education in the state, and committed to act on building social equity and racial justice in Nevada’s cannabis industry.

The promise of tourist spending at on-site cannabis consumption lounges is also what prompted Alaska to become the first state to allow the practice under a measure passed in 2019. Colorado soon approved similar legislation, with New York the latest state to allow for on-site cannabis consumption lounges in its recently approved marijuana legalization bill.

During the same hearing, Nevada’s Assembly Judiciary Committee also approved a separate measure stipulating blood THC concentration cannot be used as the sole determinant of a DUI charge. Proponents of the measure argue there’s no clear scientific basis for the current per se THC limit for drivers, a claim seconded by a congressional research report that noted “studies have been unable to consistently correlate levels of marijuana consumption, or THC in a person’s body, and levels of impairment.”

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