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Cannabis lounges to open in Nevada as slew of bills get pushed in legislature

Joseph DuPuis, co-founder of Doc & Yeti Urban Farms, a licensed cannabis producer, looks out at marijuana buds in Tumwater, Wash., on March 15, 2023.
Eugene Johnson
Joseph DuPuis, co-founder of Doc & Yeti Urban Farms, a licensed cannabis producer, looks out at marijuana buds in Tumwater, Wash., on March 15, 2023.

It’s been six years since Nevada legalized recreational marijuana. When it happened, Nevada was just one of four states that passed legislation to make cannabis legal. Today, it’s in 21 states.

And in Nevada, the cannabis industry has been profitable. Consumers have spent more than $4 billion on marijuana products in those six years.

And the industry is on the cusp of a major change: social lounges are coming to Clark County, with the first locations slated to open this summer.

"We didn't create lounges to get people to stop smoking cannabis on the Strip," said Scott Rutledge, a policy advisor in the cannabis industry. "We created lounges to create cannabis tourism."

A big selling point for the legalization of recreational cannabis was the benefits it would bring Nevada — in tourism and in tax revenue for education and more.

Tiana Bohner is the public information officer of the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board. She said it could take some time for Nevada to see those profits.

"It's not like you're going to see 40 lounges come on in one day," she said. "They're going to come on probably over a year or so. And so, we probably won't see the true tax benefits of that until a majority of those are up and operating."

More change is expected for the cannabis industry in the state. Several bills related to cannabis are being debated in the Nevada Legislature.

Nevada could see cannabis events coming in the near future. If passed, Assembly Bill 253 would allow for the licensing, sale and consumption of cannabis or cannabis products at certain temporary events.

Senate Bill 277 would revise certain provisions relating to the issuance and renewal of licenses, allowing dispensaries to sell both medicinal and recreational marijuana. If passed, the bill would also increase the legal possession amount to 2.5 ounces, which is over twice the current amount.

Tina Ulman is the president and founder of the Chamber of Cannabis. She said SB277 would make an impact for many in the cannabis industry.

"By creating an initiative around doubling the daily purchase limit," Ulman said, "you're going to drive commerce across the supply chain: from the cultivator that's struggling, to the budtender that gets a monthly bonus based on how much they sell."

Though significant changes have shaped the cannabis market in Nevada over the last six years, many people still have concerns about the lack of diversity and equity in the industry.

A'Esha Goines is a cannabis equity advocate and the founder of Black Joy Consulting. She said a change in policy would diversify the cannabis industry and create new opportunities for potential business owners.

"When marijuana was legalized, the state took a risk," said Goines. "And that risk meant that they wanted the people who could handle that financial threshold in the industry first. And so those are the people who have established the industry.

"However, we have moved so far past that," Goines added. "If we're not considering and being creative in policy to introduce new ways and opportunities for people of color, and those disenfranchised, those not offered the opportunity because of the financial threshold, then we're just going to continue along the path and the way it is."

Guests: Tiana Bohner, public information officer, Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board; Tina Ulman, president and co-founder, Chamber of Cannabis; Scott Rutledge, partner, Argentum Partners; A'Esha Goines, founder, Black Joy

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Briana Joseph is the afternoon and weekend announcer at Nevada Public Radio. She hosts during national syndication from NPR. You’ll hear her voice during All Things Considered and Weekend Edition.
Mike has been a producer for State of Nevada since 2019. He produces — and occasionally hosts — segments covering entertainment, gaming & tourism, sports, health, Nevada’s marijuana industry, and other areas of Nevada life.
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