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Last week, Nevada came close to becoming the first state in the nation to have licensed, regulated lounges where people can openly consume marijuana.
In the form of a legal opinion from the Legislative Counsel Bureau, the state said there’s nothing in the law that prohibits them.
Clark County Commissioners, however, said ‘not so fast’ and tabled the discussion about licensing pot lounges until at least December.
Las Vegas City Counselors gave the go-ahead for a 24/7 dispensary to open near the Las Vegas Strip, mirroring the lifestyle of millions of visitors to the resort corridor.
Down the road in Henderson, counselors decided to lift a moratorium in place to allow medical dispensaries to begin selling recreationally.
Marijuana news is happening at lightning speed, and industry expert Scot Rutledge joined KNPR to talk about what it all means for the valley.
The state has experienced some shortage of product because of a dispute over distribution. Is that still the case?
We are actually seeing a good flow of product from the wholesale to the dispensary level right now. There are a number of licenses that were issued to marijuana companies that applied for distribution licenses. I believe 22 have been given licenses.
We are going to run into a larger issue of supply by the end of the year. Talking to a number of these businesses, shortages are probably on the horizon. That's because we don't have enough of the cultivation that were licensed up and running and able to produce. I don't think the demand that we're seeing was anticipated by some of these growers.
A lot of people are complaining that the cost of pot in Nevada is pretty much twice as much as Colorado:
It is a supply and demand issue. There are certain constraints on that supply... I think by the time we get into 2018 and really get this program up and running that will normalize.
What do we want marijuana lounges to look like? And how would they work?
This is something I'm very passionate about because when we can provide for social use it continues this normalization of marijuana that continues to help change hearts and minds.
Las Vegas is a national and international destination. We're inviting tourists to come here and purchase marijuana. We need to give them a place to consume it.
And because it's Las Vegas, we can do lounges in a way that are not like any place else in the world. Actually, there really aren't these types of businesses anywhere else except perhaps Amsterdam.
What we can do in Las Vegas and in Southern Nevada is really something that hasn't been done yet anywhere else and that is providing a Vegas-style experience to consume marijuana.
People ask me a lot about what I think these lounges would like or how would the lounges make money because you can't sell marijuana at the lounge. Two words: experiential and Instagram-able. It needs to be a venue where somebody wants to go there and be there and be seen and take photos and show everybody that, 'hey, I'm at one of these really awesome lounges that don't exist anywhere else in this country.'
What does the lack of a place to consume marijuana mean for tourists?
I've heard anecdotally that there are fines taking place that security at the casino properties would ask a patron to please extinguish the joint if they're smoking a joint, saying, 'they can't do that here.'
Then, of course, the question comes: 'well where can I do it?' The answer is: 'Well, not here.' That's the only answer that we've provided so far, is not here.
County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick has stopped the pot lounges idea in Clark County. Are you okay with that?
I think that we have to get it right. I would rather us walk and get it right than try to 'ready, shoot, aim' - as it were.
Commissioner Kirkpatrick has a really good perspective on this. We need to ensure we have enforcement mechanisms for the existing industry but I think that these are parallel tracks. I don't think that we can't not go forward with this issue of consumption venues while we're trying to figure out some of these other issues, whether it's mitigating odor or things that we're hearing about with other businesses.
We just have to do a couple of things: Do not allow this to become more accessible to kids. Do not create public safety issues. Do not exacerbate or allow the black market to proliferate in these states. We can create smart policies around these lounges to accomplish that.
Henderson has removed its moratorium on recreational marijuana sales:
I spoke with Mayor [Debra] March and she really gets a lot of credit on this as well as Councilwoman [Gerri] Schroder who really said, 'look the other communities have made this switch. We're going to miss out on those tax revenues and what we're doing isn't actually keeping marijuana out of our communities.'
The city of Las Vegas as allowed a dispensary to be open 24/7:
The county did the same thing last week at their commission meeting. So both the county and the city are allowing this. And if you talk to these operators they'll tell you, it is a safety issue. If you have to close your doors between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m... if you're a criminal, you're waiting for the place to empty out.
So, if you're open 24/7, it's never empty.
Scot Rutledge, partner, Parallax Strategies