Approximately 43 million people journey to Las Vegas to have some fun annually. “Sin City” offers a variety of activities for tourists, from gambling in high-class casinos to shows catering to a plethora of interests. One of the many recreations that people seek out is the freedom to smoke marijuana now that it is a legal commodity. However, this idea has a major flaw: marijuana can be smoked in very few public places legally even if you purchase your weed from a Las Vegas recreational dispensary.
Recreational cannabis is legal in ten states, including Nevada. However, the catch is that it is not legal in a majority of public spaces due to safety regulations. People who chose to use marijuana in private spaces are also at risk, as landlords and hotel management reserve the right to kick people out of their rooms and homes for using marijuana.
A suggestion offered by the Democratic senator of Nevada, Tick Segerblom, is the creation of lounges dedicated to the legal consumption of pot. Currently, no regulations exist in cities and states such as Oregon, Washington, and Colorado Springs concerning safe spaces for marijuana users. This is a result of complications in combining these rules with existing ones in place regarding restrictions on smoking indoors. For this reason, temporary regulations created for lounges have not had much success.
In conjunction with indoor restrictions, there is concern that cannabis lounges may pose a health risk. One of these concerns is that there will be a correlation between weed lounges and an increase in driving while under the influence of the substance. If this were to occur, it could cause the federal government to put an end to the legalization of marijuana.
These issues are now making it difficult for business owners and law enforcers alike. One of the biggest problems is that while it is legal to own a club that allows people to smoke, this club has to be private. However, it is hard to tell which clubs are private and which are free for the public to be patrons of.
Opinions are slowly changing as newly weed-friendly states usher in initiatives that would allow for weed lounges to exist alongside their marijuana-free counterparts. For example, Maine’s initiative has proposed a set of rules that permit the opening of clubs allowing for the usage of marijuana as long as the said club is has applied for and received proper licensing.
In states like Nevada where there are a number of clubs and bars that allow the smoking of cigarettes, the idea of lounges and clubs allowing the same thing, but with cannabis, may not be such a farfetched concept.
Uncertainty is Stalling Progress
The legalization of the ingestion of marijuana in public spaces is taking an extended amount of time for several reasons. These reasons range from existing rules in place for the benefit of air quality to uncertainty regarding the safety of the drug. This has turned the discussion on whether lounges deserve allowance into a “divisive area,” according to the former director of Colorado’s marijuana coordination, Andrew Freedman.
Alaska has attempted to allow public smoking by making it legal for its citizens to use marijuana at their designated dispensaries. However, the state’s lawmakers hesitate to go any further due to questions and concerns that have arisen pertaining to the safety of creating “tasting rooms.” Other questions that concerned legislation members pose have to do with how regulation will be imposed on the purchasing of pot or if happy hours will be eradicated for the safety of patrons.
Some states are sticking to their guns on the prohibition of lounges. One of these states is Oregon, where a bill legalizing such an establishment was shut down immediately due to worries about the type of example that it would set. This does not come as a surprise considering Oregon’s existing laws prohibiting the use of inhalants in places of work.
Colorado’s state representative, Dan Pabon of the democratic party, compares all of the concerns that are causing state legislation to drag their feet to similar queries that have existed in the past and continue to do so today in respect to public use of alcohol and cigarettes. The thing “keeping things at bay,” Pabon says, is that there is a smaller amount of data that exists concerning the effect of second-hand marijuana smoke in comparison to cigarette smoke and other tobacco products.
However, the indecisiveness of state lawmakers has created more questions than complacency in individual communities. For Nevada, it was never specified who had the authority to grant licenses for weed clubs and lounges. Lawyers serving the state decided that communities have the right to grant licenses to proposed weed lounges. However, Nevada’s attorney general refuses to offer an opinion.
Republican governor Brian Sandoval believes such lounges should be regulated by the state. In a statement, Sandoval says that he is “concerned with these establishments popping up throughout the state with differing rules and regulatory structure.”
The question of who exactly has the authority to grant a license to cannabis lounges on the Vegas strip was also asked during a Clark County Commission meeting. There are no answers set in stone for this yet, as the seven commissioners have decided to hold off on making a decision before the other communities of Nevada do. When asked why, Commissioner James Gibson stated that it is because “they don’t have to be first, but they certainly have to be right.”
Denver Has Won the Battle, But Not the War
A city that is currently under a microscope and serving as an example for other states considering the switch to public weed usage is Denver. Denver has successfully made lounge regulations and other rules for smoking in social settings after being forced to in order for their 2016 marijuana initiative to pass.
Of course, there were some drawbacks. A state ban exists on the open and public consumption of pot. Therefore, the idea of consumption in restaurants, concert venues, and bars proved to be in the category of fantasy.
While this could be maneuvered around by defining “public space” in a manner that benefits marijuana users, state laws further prevent public usage. Colorado’s ban on marijuana ingestion at locations already holding a liquor license as well as the Indoor Air Act that prevents smoking in a majority of businesses excluding the utilization of vapes makes it almost impossible to find a loophole that allows public consumption. In addition, only dispensaries with licenses may sell marijuana-based products. However, the public cannot consume the products at the dispensary.
In July of 2017, Denver business owners began submitting applications allowing for social consumption of pot. None have been approved yet. A hurdle for businesses set on running a cannabis lounge will be creating business models where selling marijuana is not their sole source of income.
Another issue is that Denver’s zoning laws prevent the issuance of licenses to establishments that are within a 1,000-foot radius of places including educational facilities, rehabilitation centers, and community pools, making most of the city unsuitable for the creation of lounges.
Colorado now has legalized marijuana while simultaneously constructing a black market for it because of the lack of regulations. Molly Duplechian, deputy director of policy for the Denver Office of Marijuana Policy says that if rules were into action for social usage of marijuana, it would make “Denver’s life easier” especially since the issue will not just eradicate itself.