It’s 4/20, and one unlikely group of people who might be spending time thinking about marijuana today are Nevada legislators.
There’s a big handful of cannabis-centered laws working their way through the legislature.
It’s a sign of how quickly the state's marijuana industry has become an important industry and, alternatively, how many growing pains it has encountered.
How might lawmakers change DUI or drug-possession laws? Or usher in social consumption lounges, one of the most talked-about issues of this year’s session?
Scot Rutledge is a partner at Argentum Partners and the legislative advisor for the Chamber of Cannabis.
Assembly Bill 400 - DUI Laws:
Currently, police officers use a blood test to determine the level of cannabis metabolites in a driver's blood to decide if a driver is impaired.
Rutledge: "It eliminates that limit. It's an arbitrary figure. There's no science that actually shows that this amount of THC metabolite would impair you. So, by removing that, it requires law enforcement to rely on being able to do just observation and other types of field sobriety tests"
Rutledge explained that people can still have THC metabolite in their blood days after consuming cannabis, which means they would be considered above the legal limit even though they're not impaired.
The bill does retain the per se limits for works compensation because of the cost to workers compensation insurance.
Assembly Bill 235 - Cannabis Business Licensing:
Rutledge: The bill as amended is not going to provide any new licenses right now. It does address in the amended language how licenses might be granted to social equity applicants in the future, which is also being discussed in a couple of other pieces of legislation. But one of the other aspects of 235 is...having a medical versus a retail license. A medical patient can't go into a retail-only store and purchase their medicine. By allowing... one type of license, calling them a cannabis establishment license(s)... then both retail consumers and patients can go into the same store, and then the patients, theoretically, could be offered the medicine at a lower price.
Assembly Bill 158 - Criminal Justice Reform:
If a minor is caught with marijuana or alcohol, it reduces their punishment to counseling or participation in support groups instead of fines or jail time.
Rutledge: "We should not be throwing kids into jail for marijuana. I mean - full stop. The fact that this disproportionately affects black and brown kids - it is more of a moral question or how we view ourselves as a society. This isn't a cannabis question. This eliminates yet another way that young people in our community are disproportionately impacted by laws that don't work."
Assembly Bill 341 - Consumption Lounges:
Rutledge: We are hearing pretty broadly from members of the Legislature that they support it, that they know that it's an idea whose time has come. Law enforcement did not weigh in on the bill... they are monitoring it but they understand the need for this. As long as we do it right, they're not going to have an issue. This looks like a bill that should pass. We still have to address some issues related to air quality and things of that nature. Should we do it? Absolutely. Our current policy of 'Where can I consume this cannabis I legally purchased?' 'Not here.' 'Well, what about over there?' 'No, not there, either'? That's not a policy."
He said that the gaming industry is watching the legislation but also has not come out against it; however, the lounges would likely not go up on the Las Vegas Strip and not in a casino because of the federal regulations against marijuana.
One thing that is in the bill for consumption lounges is the licenses would not be capped like they are for other licenses in the industry, Rutledge said.
That means it would be a truly open market for lounges. There will be extra points given to applications from people negatively impacted by past marijuana laws. Those applicants are considered social equity applicants, and the idea, Rutledge said, is to correct past wrongs and bring more diversity to the industry.
He believes we'll see cannabis consumption lounges in Nevada by 2022.
Scot Rutledge, legislative advisor, Chamber of Cannabis
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