On Wednesday afternoon, the Las Vegas City Council approved an ordinance that will allow cannabis retailers to open on-site consumption lounges, enabling residents and 42 million annual tourists to consume beyond the confines of their homes and hotel rooms.
Under the ordinance, introduced by Councilmember Bob Coffin, only owners of existing cannabis shops will be able to apply for a time-limited license from the City Council, which will be subject to an annual $5,000 fee. Notably, what the ordinance has dubbed “social-use venues” will not be allowed to sell, provide, or distribute any cannabis, but it can distribute or sell paraphernalia. Applicants will also be expected to submit a security plan, an air-quality control plan, a fire safety plan, and a training plan that touches on the effects of cannabis use, overconsumption, and sanitation needs. Alcohol sales will also be prohibited in cannabis lounges, and only those who are twenty-one years or older will be allowed to enter. Las Vegas is the first jurisdiction in Nevada to take this step.
During Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Senior Assistant City Attorney Bryan Scott noted that he and his team began working on the ordinance two years ago, making it a point to respond to feedback from stakeholders and learn from best practices in other cities that have forged ahead with consumption lounges, Denver and San Francisco.
Originally, said Scott, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department opposed the ordinance due to its inclusion of alcohol, “so that was removed and the Sheriff is now supporting the ordinance.”
“To take the baby steps the Council desired,” he added, “we’ve changed the ordinance to allow, during the first year, that only city-licensed marijuana dispensaries can operate social-use venues.” This is a stipulation that met significant opposition during public comment. At least 10 speakers expressed their dissatisfaction and asked the Council to strike the item down in the ordinance.
The Director of Development for Las Vegas NORML, Tina Ulman, also weighed in, saying: “Even though I would love this to be open to all participants . . . the fact of the matter is we have a safety issue on hand. If anybody on the resort side thinks people aren’t vaping in their casino, they’re completely oblivious to what’s going on. We have to give people a safe place to consume, or we’re just going backwards when it comes to public safety. You walk down Las Vegas Boulevard, you absolutely smell cannabis everywhere, and next to that cannabis is children who are under twenty-one. So I would say that even though this isn’t the ultimate step, it is a step in the right direction.”
Councilman Stavros Anthony, the only one to vote against ordinance, urged his colleagues to let the ordinance “die a good death.”
“I truly believe we need to take a regional approach to this,” he said. “It can’t just be the city of Las Vegas. We should have Clark County involved. We should have North Las Vegas and Henderson involved . . . We’re going to have consumption lounges. I guarantee you we are going to have consumption lounges. It doesn’t have to be today. It’s not emergency.”
Ultimately, the ordinance was passed with four in favor. Mayor Carolyn Goodman abstained because one of her children is involved in the industry. In neighboring California, a bill to create a license for cannabis lounges has gained ground in the state legislature.