LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- When Nevadans buy marijuana at local dispensaries, it must be consumed at home.
Tourists are not allowed to do it in public, most hotels ban it, and it can’t be used in the dispensary where it is purchased.
Social use legislation would change that and create two new categories for cannabis consumption lounges: retail (attached to existing dispensaries) or independent.
Existing retailers could let people buy their products and consume them on-site. Independent lounges, places not permitted to sell cannabis on their own like barber shops or nail salons, could have marijuana products delivered or people could bring it in on their own.
Oasis Cannabis Dispensary, near downtown Las Vegas sees on average about a thousand customers per day.
“We have been able to sell cannabis legally for a couple of years, but we haven’t been able to offer a safe and legal place for people to consume cannabis so for us this is a game changer,” General Manager Lissa Lawatsch said.
Since the day the dispensary opened, they've been prepared to expand renting adjoining space should consumption lounges ever become legal.
“We do have three large suites set aside here,” Lawatsch showed FOX5.
Lawatsch said there is a huge demand for the venue.
“We have a ton of tourist that always ask us, ‘Where can we consume?’ and we have to educate them that consuming out in public is illegal,” Lawatsch said.
“Ever since voters in Nevada legalized adult use cannabis, there has really been this problem of where they can consume,” Assemblymen Steve Yeager said. Yeager, sponsor of Assembly Bill 341, argues millions of tourists who legally buy at dispensaries have nowhere to use it and it's become a problem on the strip.
“Right now, they are told they can’t do it and they ask the logical question, ‘Well where can I do it?’ and they are basically told nowhere... Now there would be an option for those people. You can’t do it here but there are 25 businesses a short Uber or Lyft ride away where you could do this,” Yeager said.
A'esha Goins, Founder of Cannabis Equity and Inclusion Community said when dispensaries opened in Nevada, people from marginalized communities did not become owners. Now she's pushing lawmakers to make sure that doesn't happen with consumption lounges.
“One of the biggest obstacles of the consumption lounge bill is the finances of it... The barrier to entry is always going to be a large amount of finance,” Goins said.
A social equity piece has been added to the bill to give licensing preference to people adversely impacted by past cannabis laws.
Nevada's Cannabis Compliance Board would be responsible for regulating consumption lounges.