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Pot Lounges, Coming To A City Near You

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Brennan Linsley / Associated Press

Club 64, a marijuana-specific social club in Denver.

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Marijuana has been legal in Nevada for six months, but there’s a catch – people can only smoke it at home.

That presents a problem for tourists because hotels and casinos won’t allow it, and you can’t smoke it on the streets.

The City of Las Vegas wants to allow consumption lounges, much like the pot cafes found in Amsterdam. Councilman Bob Coffin is behind the bill.

Coffin told State of Nevada he doesn't know what the lounges would look like — that would be up to the imagination of the owner — but his main concern is regulating them properly.

Lounges would not be classified as marijuana businesses, and therefore could not sell marijuana products, though they could host people who bring their own. Businesses could include yoga studios, paint-and-puff art classes, bars or cafes. 

That's all to be determined, though lounges could open as early as March 2018, making them the first in the nation.

"We're going to not try to copy Amsterdam," Coffin said. "We're just going to make it Las Vegas style — whatever works, whatever's safe."

Kevin Sabet, a prominent anti-marijuana advocate who oversees the Drug Research Institute, says that marijuana cafes in the Netherlands don't sell the high-potency THC products that Nevada does, and the country doesn't market the substance as heavily. 

Support comes from

"They think what we're doing here in America is pretty ridiculous," Sabet said. "I've talked to the Dutch at the [United Nations] and many other venues."

Sabet worries that consumption lounges will normalize marijuana, and will hurt the economy and public safety by encouraging intoxication.

"I'm also worried about adults being stoned out of their minds all the time," Sabet said. "It's adults who are driving, it's adults who are going to work, it's adults who are nurse practitioners, are bus drivers ... ." 

Scot Rutledge is a marijuana advocate who worked to legalize it in Nevada during the last election, and now advocates for lounges. Rutledge says normalization was the point of legalization.

"The voters decided overwhelmingly to legalize it," Rutledge said. "Normalizing means explaining to people what it is, what it isn't. Lounges are going to become a place where folks can get together in a social venue and responsibly consume."

Like it or not, Rutledge says it's already happening. Speakeasy venues and black market lounges have popped up, and legal lounges are one way to combat those. 

Currently, marijuana can only be delivered to homes, but that could change, too.

The Las Vegas City Council will continue to hear the issue. Coffin it's unlikely to happen by March, but lounges are on their way.

Guests

Bob Coffin, councilman, City of Las Vegas; Scot Rutledge, partner, Parallax Strategies; Kevin Sabet, director, Drug Policy Institute

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