Nearly six years after Nevadans voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, they will finally be able to imbibe at someplace other than a private home.
Gov. Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 341 last week that will allow the development of consumption lounges — alcohol-free tavern-like venues, where people 21 and over will be able to purchase and consume marijuana products.
The new law takes effect on Oct. 1 and the lounges are expected to start opening following local licensing approvals, probably sometime in early 2022. Some will be stand-alone independent businesses and others will be attached to existing dispensaries.
The state’s top cannabis regulator says “there’s no hard cap” on the number of lounges, but owners of multiple dispensaries are only allowed to open one lounge.
“On the independent side the bill envisions an initial round of 20 independent consumption lounges, 10 of which will be social equity applicants,” said Tyler Klimas, executive director, Cannabis Compliance Board.
The exact definition of social equity applicant has yet to be written into regulations, Klimas told State of Nevada, but lawmakers wanted to diversify the largely white and male cannabis industry in the state. Social equity applicants will receive a steep discount on licensing fees, with the intent to broaden participation in the industry.
“The government’s job isn’t necessarily to be the entrepreneur for you, but they have the capacity to make it much more easy to get into the industry, and that’s what they’ve done,” said Tina Ulman, president of the Las Vegas-based Chamber of Cannabis, which advocates for marijuana businesses.
For consumers, consumption lounges will be the first places tourists can legally use marijuana, which is banned in hotels.
“I think this really solidifies us as the cannabis destination,” said Assemblyman Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, who sponsored the legislation.
Businessman Christopher LaPorte, a hospitality, esport and cannabis consultant, said consumption lounges could attract younger visitors to Las Vegas, a market the city has long coveted.
“Social-use lounges will allow us to not create a new Amsterdam, but a new Napa Valley,” which is famous for attracting wine aficionados, he said. “We’re going to turn cannabis into a hospitality industry. No one's going to touch what Las Vegas does with this industry.”
Christopher LaPorte, founder, Reset; Tyler Klimas, executive director, Cannabis Compliance Board; Tina Ulman, president, Chamber of Cannabis
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