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Las Vegas Lights Up: Cannabis Consumption Lounges Coming

Though marijuana is legal in Nevada, you can't legally smoke it on the Las Vegas Strip.
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Nevada legalized recreational marijuana at the start of 2017 without fully considering how it would affect the Las Vegas Strip and tourism. 

On the surface, the law seems pretty simple:

"A person who is 21 years of age or older is allowed to possess and consume retail marijuana. A marijuana consumer may possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana or 1/8 of an ounce of concentrated marijuana. Marijuana can only be purchased legally from state-licensed retail marijuana stores," the law states.

That seems easy -- but if you're a tourist on the Las Vegas Strip, it's not that simple. You can possess marijuana but you can't smoke it in any public place or in your hotel room. In fact, in Las Vegas, it's actually legal to smoke cannabis only in private residences.

This has not, as you might imagine, stopped tourists from smoking pot. Instead, it has forced them to smoke it subtly in casino parking lots and, less subtly, on the Las Vegas Strip. 

The city's police generally don't enforce public smoking laws. If you're not also committing some other crime, Las Vegas law enforcement has generally ignored illegal public consumption of marijuana.

This does not mean that the Las Vegas Strip does not have a pot problem. It most certainly does since the lack of legal consumption has left the Strip smelling like a Grateful Dead concert, which is offputting for many tourists.

Now, Las Vegas has moved closer to a solution to its pot problem.

Planet 13 Las Vegas Lead JS

Las Vegas Dispensaries Will Add Consumption Lounges

Las Vegas, and more broadly the state of Nevada, has a plan to create legal cannabis-consumption lounges. These would work a lot like bars, except they won't be allowed to sell alcohol. The lounges will be a place where tourists (and residents) can legally smoke cannabis products.  

There will be two types of consumption lounges. First, there are the ones that will be associated with existing dispensaries. Planet 13 (PLNHF) , the largest cannabis retailer in Las Vegas, has actually opted to give up its liquor license in order to open a marijuana-consumption lounge. Currently, the massive dispensary serves alcohol in its on-site restaurant.

“It’s been something that has been transformative for the business, where we’re pushing the envelope as far as cannabis, in the country," David Farris, vice president of sales and marketing at Planet 13, told Fox 5 Las Vegas

"We’ve made the determination that we will most likely be forfeiting that alcohol license. We feel like that’s the best decision to make. ... That’s been a big push for tourists.

“In the restaurant, where customers go and sit down, the first question they ask is, ‘Is there an ability for us to have cannabis, or is there cannabis consumption here?’ Our dream has always been for you to be able to purchase, see products being made, and then consume them as well.” 

That will happen under the new law, giving Planet 13 a consumption lounge about a mile off the Las Vegas Strip.

Casinos will not be able to host consumption lounges due to ongoing federal regulation of cannabis.

More Consumption Lounges Are Coming

In addition to lounges associated with dispensaries, Nevada plans to issue 20 licenses for stand-alone cannabis-consumption lounges, according to the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board. A sort of lottery will be used to pick who gets the coveted licenses.

"During a 10-day period in October, the state received 79 viable applications for the limited number of independent licenses it will issue, according to the board," the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. "Ten of the licenses will go to applicants negatively impacted by marijuana laws before Nevada legalized the drug in 2016." 

No exact timetable for when the lounges will open has been disclosed. Ten licenses will be awarded to any qualified applicants, while 10 will go to applicants who meet "social equity" requirements.

The consumption lounges are broadly expected to open in early 2023.