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Las Vegas City Council gives thumbs-up for pot lounges

Las Vegas is first city in the state of Nevada to allow public consumption venues

Jacob Kepler/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Las Vegas City Council approved an ordinance that would allow pot shops to apply for special permits to open marijuana lounges on premises.

Council members passed the measure in a 4-1 vote on Wednesday. Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who has family members who work in the cannabis industry, abstained from the vote, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

The move makes Las Vegas the first city in the state of Nevada to allow public consumption lounges, according to the Las Vegas City Council blog. A similar state bill failed this legislative session.

What are the details?

Initially, only currently licensed retail shops and dispensaries may apply for a permit. In a year, other business owners will be allowed to apply.

The consumption lounge must be located in a separate area away from the retail shop or dispensary.

Lounges would not be allowed within 300 feet of a church and other protected venues or within 1,000 feet of a casino or school. Alcohol would be prohibited in the lounges.

What are the current marijuana laws in Nevada?

In 2016, voters passed the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, which allows for the purchase, possession, and consumption of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. The law took effect Jan. 1, 2017.

However, the use of cannabis is restricted to private property, "as long as the property owner has not prohibited it," according to Nevada law. It is illegal to use in any public space, including hotels and casinos, and while riding in a car.

What was the argument for the ordinance?

Councilman Bob Coffin, who sponsored the measure, argued that there are too few options for legal consumption of the drug for the millions of tourists who visit the city.

"The state will catch up," Coffin said, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "We can't wait for the state to act."

Council members Michele Fiore and Cedric Crear, who also voted in favor of the ordinance, agreed that the city needed more venues for people to legally consume the drug.

"I think that we need these social-use venues," Crear said. "It allows people that are coming into town a place to go smoke legally."

Mayor Pro-Tempore Lois Tarkanian also voted in favor of the move.

What did opponents say?

Representatives from Las Vegas gaming and tourist businesses told the council that allowing marijuana lounges would increase public intoxication, creating more problems for public venues.

"We're already finding it incredibly difficult to limit public consumption with recreational [marijuana] availability," Fremont Street Experience CEO Patrick Hughes said, according to the Sun. "We're very concerned that expanding the industry without proper oversight similar to the gaming industry."

Others argued that the ordinance was too limiting and wouldn't give all interested businesses an opportunity to participate.

"The way this is written, only a small group of businesses and individuals will be able to participate," Rebecca Perrick of Women Grow Las Vegas told the council.

What else?

Marijuana lounges could be opened by year's end.

Editor's note: This piece has been updated. Las Vegas became the first city in Nevada — not the U.S. — to legalize pot lounges.

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