Nevada is moving forward in joining only a handful of other states that have legalized recreational cannabis consumption lounges. And as marijuana users around the country celebrate 4/20 — pot’s unofficial holiday — details regarding how Nevada will regulate consumption venues are slowly emerging.
April 20 — or 4/20 — is weed’s annual celebration. While its origins remain disputed, most link the holiday back to the 1970s. 4:20 pm was the daily afternoon meeting time for a group of California teenagers who ritualistically smoked marijuana after school. 4/20 was code for lighting up and getting high.
April 20 later became pot’s unofficial observance. And as millions partake with their favorite sativa or indica today, the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board is finalizing its plans to regulate consumption lounges.
The most vital detail for Las Vegas is that casinos and all licensed gaming establishments must keep their distance from anything to do with cannabis. Nevada casinos are mandated to adhere to all federal and state laws, and with marijuana remaining a Schedule 1 narcotic on the federal level, and federal statutes overriding state laws, gaming and marijuana simply cannot currently mix.
Nevada’s current recreational marijuana law allows for anyone aged 21 and older to legally purchase cannabis from a licensed dispensary. But as for consumption, only private residencies are legally permitted.
The consumption aspect of Nevada’s cannabis industry is scarcely enforced. The smell of marijuana on the Strip is today almost as common as being pestered by an Elvis impersonator.
Nevada’s forthcoming consumption lounges will provide visitors with a place to legally consume marijuana. But accessing such venues will require at least a short walk from the casino floor.
The Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board has announced that consumption lounges will need to be at least 1,500 feet from any gaming establishment. That’s nearly three-tenths of a mile. Cannabis lounges must also be distanced a minimum of 1,000 feet from schools and 300 feet from community facilities and places of worship.
With restaurants that have a restricted gaming license that allows such businesses to incorporate a small allotment of tabletop gaming terminals qualifying as gaming establishments, the potential sites for cannabis consumption lounges will be scarce around the Strip.
Dispensaries Likely First
Nevada’s cannabis consumption law allows the state to issue up to 20 licenses in the first year after the regulations are finalized. Half of those licenses are to be awarded to “social equity applicants,” or applicants who have been affected by past marijuana criminalization laws or are seeking to open a lounge in a “social equity zone” where there’s been a high number of marijuana-related arrests.
Dispensaries, which already operate distanced from casinos and gaming establishments, as well as schools and churches, are likely to be awarded the first consumption lounge permits. Large retailers like Planet 13 have already invested in building out their on-site consumption facility. Each dispensary will only qualify for one lounge permit, and it can only be used at a single dispensary location.
Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board Executive Director Tyler Klimas says the state has fielded nearly 50 consumption lounge applications.
Some consumption lounges have already opened on tribal lands. The NuWu Cannabis Marketplace, for instance, opened in 2019. It is owned and operated by the Las Vegas Pauite Tribe.
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