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Some excited about pot consumption lounges, others concerned

Marijuana lounge bill gains traction as Nevada lawmakers consider 23 pot related bills. 4/13/17 (KSNV)

As the budding marijuana industry continues to grow in Las Vegas, one major association is hoping the city will wait to move forward with one aspect of growth: consumption lounges.

Virginia Valentine, the president of the Nevada Resort Association, penned a letter to Mayor Carolyn Goodman, expressing her association’s opposition to the idea of creating legislation that would allow consumption lounges.

“The Nevada gaming regulators have made it clear that marijuana businesses, both medical and recreational, are not compatible with gaming establishments,” Valentine writes.

One of her biggest concerns has to do with the proximity of pot near gaming establishments. There are certain gaming regulations that she says present “unique challenges” for licensed gaming operations that are operating nearby marijuana establishments.

“Regulation 5.011 further indicates that a licensee’s failure to comply with all local, state and federal laws is an unsuitable method of operation that can result in a fine, suspension or even revocation of the licensee’s gaming license,” Valentine writes. “Therefore, a violation of federal marijuana laws on a gaming property could result in the licensee is subject to disciplinary action.

On the other side of the debate, John Mueller, the CEO of Acres Dispensary, also stresses the idea of keeping cannabis out of the casinos. However, he believes that consumption lounges will help ensure that pot doesn’t make its way into the casinos.

“Let’s keep it away from the gaming venues and bring it into a legal consumption lounge. I think at the end of the day, that’s a better, regulated environment,” Mueller said. “Let’s keep it out of the casinos, keep it out of their parking garages, and keep it off the streets.”

As the current, statewide marijuana laws stand, people can’t just light up anywhere. Cannabis consumers are only allowed to consume in private residences. Mueller says this poses a problem for dispensaries because they’re selling a legal product to people who often end up having to use it illegally, especially tourists.

“Right now, we’re forcing that tourist hand, or even a local resident’s hand, to either go to their house or go walk down the strip and sneak it as they’re walking into a parking garage, or something along those lines,” he said.

Rather than being in a situation like that, he suggests legal consumption lounges and more regulations will help keep the product off the streets.

“You don’t want people breaking the law at the end of the day,” Mueller said. “So you set up your regulations so they don’t have to break the law.”

There is no set timetable for if and when pot consumption lounges will become legal in the region, according to Ward 3 City Councilman Bob Coffin. At this point, the city is still in the early stages of drafting how this might work.

“We are not rushing this legislation to make sure we do what we can to produce a good bill,” Coffin said.

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