The Las Vegas City Council this week gave the official green light to cannabis consumption lounges to open for business, but it’s still unclear exactly when that may happen.
Regardless, the move is a precedent-setting one for the Nevada tourist hub, since it will mark the first time in the industry’s history that such businesses will be able to both sell marijuana and allow customers to consume on-site, essentially the same way bars and taverns operate, though alcohol sales will not be allowed at cannabis lounges.
Until now, the consumption lounge business model primarily has been based on membership dues and other alternative revenue streams, because actual cannabis sales are typically restricted to licensed retailers.
State lawmakers in Nevada approved a bill to legalize a consumption lounge business model in 2021, in part to address the longstanding lack of legal consumption areas for the tens of millions of tourists that visit Las Vegas annually, and the implementation of the bill is still in the works.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the city council approved an opt-in to the state cannabis lounge law on a 5-1 vote but noted that “additional state licensing isn’t guaranteed” for entrepreneurs who want to open lounges.
City Councilwoman Olivia Diaz said she’s excited about the further economic growth that cannabis lounges will bring to the city.
“It’s important for the city to consider the business opportunity that consumption lounges will bring, and also some relief of issues we’re currently hearing about a lot because we’re not offering a place for folks to actually consume when they buy,” Diaz told the Review-Journal. “We have still some way to go and some more work to do.”
Those in line for lounge permits include most of the city-licensed 17 cannabis retailers, the Review-Journal reported. Statewide there will be 20 permits issued for “stand-alone” consumption lounges, with half of those set aside for social equity applicants who were affected by the war on drugs.
Next steps include the state licensing process, followed by Las Vegas city permitting early next year.
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom, a longtime cannabis industry advocate, predicted that the first lounges in unincorporated parts of the county – the only other jurisdiction in southern Nevada where they’ll be legal – will open for business in early 2023.
Other Nevada cities – including North Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City and Mesquite – have formally opted out of hosting cannabis lounges, the Las Vegas city attorney told the council before its vote.