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Will The State's Decision To Put Pot Lounges On Hold Hurt Nevada's Economy?

The City of Las Vegas approved pot lounges on May 1, but a few weeks later state lawmakers killed that idea. 


The Legislature passed a bill that halts consumption lounges for two years while the state studies them. Now, it’s just waiting to be signed by the governor. 


Does a two-year study mean other states will pass Nevada by in the race for cannabis tourism? And, what, exactly do lawmakers and police say they need to study? 

Chuck Callaway is a lobbyist for Las Vegas Metro Police. He said the biggest concern for police is that industry doesn't rush into building lounges without addressing safety concerns.

"I think we do it slow and we do it the right way, so that we'll have a standard that is top notch across the country and it will benefit our economy and benefit tourism and not have a negative impact on public safety," Callaway said.

Some of the challenges he sees with consumption lounges include how to keep the air clean for employees, how employees can spot an impaired person and stop that patron from driving, and how to keep black market product from being used in the lounge.

One of the solutions to that issue is to have dispensaries and lounges connected, which allows patrons to buy product at the dispensary then walk through a connecting hallway to use the product in the lounge.

Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom helped get marijuana legalized in Nevada while in the State Senate. He is a strong supporter of allowing lounges and believes they are needed in a city that bills itself as a place for tourists to have a good time.

“We have hundreds of thousands of misdemeanors created every month based on the current law because we are encouraging people to come here, purchase it, knowing full well that there is nowhere they can use it in Clark County," Segerblom said, "and if they took it back across state lines or got on an airplane then it’s a felony. You’re breaking federal law. It really is an incoherent policy and a bit hypocritical."

He agreed that consumption lounges should be rolled out slowly so they can be looked at and laws changed to accommodate real-world situations. 

Scot Rutledge, a partner at Argentum NV, has been working on the cannabis legalization issue for several years. He is working with clients who want to set up cannabis operations and lounges. 

Rutledge also agrees that the industry needs to move slowly when it comes to rolling out pot consumption lounges, but he thought the way the City of Las Vegas had set up its lounge ordinance would have done that. Now, he has clients who are stuck with nothing after paying applications fees and leasing buildings for their pot lounges.

"This is the frustration," he said. "The city already made the decision to take it slow — they were going to limit these to just the dispensaries in the city."

Rutledge said there would have been maybe four or five open within the first year. He said the state's decision put a halt to compromises that had been worked out in Carson City between all the stakeholders in the industry and in law enforcement.

Segerblom would have liked for the lounges to be set up sooner but he believes Las Vegas will be the center for cannabis tourism, so waiting a few extra years won't really matter.

“At the end of the day, Vegas is still the perfect place to do this, so if it takes two or three or four years, that’s just what we have to deal with," he said.

Tick Segerblom, commissioner, Clark County Commission; Chuck Callaway, lobbyist, Las Vegas Metro Police;  Scot Rutledge, partner, Argentum NV

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Kristy Totten is a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada. Previously she was a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, and has covered technology, education and economic development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.