Las Vegas Marijuana Lounges Likely Up in Smoke, Nevada Bill Enforcing Two-Year Moratorium Advances

Posted on: June 4, 2019, 09:06h. 

Last updated on: June 4, 2019, 09:06h.

Las Vegas marijuana consumption lounges appeared to be just a stone’s throw away from reality when the City Council signed off on the venues last month, but now a bill backed by Governor Steve Sisolak (D) that will put a two-year moratorium on licensing the establishments has passed through the Nevada Legislature.

Las Vegas marijuana lounge cannabis
Las Vegas marijuana lounges aren’t expected to open shop until 2021 at the earliest. (Image: Jeff Chiu/AP)

Assembly Bill 533 passed the Assembly on May 30 by a vote of 39-1. The legislation received Senate support on Monday with a 14-6 vote. The measure now moves to engrossment where it will find Sisolak’s desk.

If the governor signs AB533 as expected, the legislation will authorize the five-member Cannabis Compliance Board, which Sisolak will be tasked with appointing. The agency will then review regulations to legalize marijuana consumption lounges, but in the interim, a two-year moratorium on such businesses coming to realization will be imposed.

The governor believes that it’s better to address the issue of consumption lounges the right way than the quick way,” Sisolak spokeswoman Helen Kalla told reporters.

Sisolak supports such commercial establishments, saying last fall during his gubernatorial campaign, “Tourists visiting Las Vegas are permitted to purchase marijuana, but they can only consume the drug in private residences – not casino resort hotel rooms. These are issues we need to step up and address.”

Gaming Industry Impact

The US government maintains cannabis as a Schedule 1 narcotic – the same classification as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. The Drug Enforcement Administration says Schedule 1 drugs “are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

That, of course, is highly debatable when it comes to marijuana. Thirty-three states plus the District of Columbia have legal medicinal use of cannabis. Recreational use of the drug is legal in 11 states including Nevada.

Casinos, however, must remain distant from cannabis so long as the federal government maintains its Schedule 1 status. The Nevada Gaming Control Act requires that all casino license holders comply with all federal laws.

The Las Vegas City Council altered Municipal Code Titles 6 and 19 to create “a business license category and land use regulations for social use venues (marijuana).”

However, the ordinance would not apply to the Strip – which is situated in an unincorporated area of Clark County. The City of Las Vegas proper measures around 135 square miles and includes the communities of downtown Las Vegas and Summerlin.

Las Vegas Draw?

Some tourism officials believe Las Vegas marijuana lounges could be a lure to bring in a new demographic to Sin City.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) said total visitor volume last year was down 0.2 percent, with a 2.2 percent decline in convention attendance the culprit. Through April, visitor volume is up 0.5 percent this year.

Las Vegas has received millions of dollars in marijuana industry investments.

One project – Planet 13 – is a massive dispensary near the Strip where customers can buy (but not consume) cannabis and experience numerous immersive entertainment features. Planet 13’s co-CEO Bob Groesbeck wants to build a neighboring consumption lounge at the property.

“I don’t have any objection to looking at how lounges operate,” he told the Reno Gazette Journal. “I have a strong objection to arbitrarily imposing a two-year moratorium without any guidelines on what they would study. This is just a delay tactic.”