By: Salma Granich

One of the largest issues that continue to plague the cannabis industry is the inability for out-of-state residents to be able to consume cannabis products that they purchase at state-licensed local dispensaries. Specifically, Las Vegas is one of the largest tourist cities in the country and with the state of Nevada having legalized cannabis for both medical and recreational use, tourists are faced with the difficult problem of having no legal place to consume their cannabis products. Regulations currently legalize the use of cannabis within a private dwelling, but for tourists visiting from out of town and staying in casinos, it is not something that is feasible for them to do.

Casinos have been advised by the Nevada Gaming Commission to prohibit the consumption of cannabis on their premises, as cannabis is still federally categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance according to the Controlled Substance Act. As such, cannabis is still considered to be federally illegal and allowing any association with the cannabis industry could risk casinos losing their gaming license.

In order to take a proactive step towards correcting this problem, the creation of cannabis consumption lounges have been discussed as a solution. With a consumption lounge, such businesses would be regulated by the state and allow persons over the age of 21 to consume marijuana on the premises, out of the view of the public eye.

On May 1, 2019, the Las Vegas City Council, which controls parts of downtown Las Vegas and Fremont East areas, took the first step towards legalizing consumption lounges by approving an ordinance that would allow the creation of these social consumption lounges within the Las Vegas city limits.

However, with the recent passage of Assembly Bill 533, the local ordinance is put in limbo as the bill places a moratorium on cannabis lounges for two years. The bill prohibits the establishment of consumption lounges until a two-year study can be made on the effects of such lounges and how they would work in Nevada. The bill also establishes the creation of the Cannabis Compliance Board, which is tasked with outlining when and where the consumption lounges would be allowed, if at all. Critics of this amendment to the bill have expressed their concern as to how the Board would be able to study the effects of consumption lounges, for they do not yet exist.

Nevertheless, as state law supersedes local ordinances, any plans to open consumption lounges are halted until July 1, 2021, when the Board’s study period ends. Until then, tourists are still faced with the difficult task of finding places to privately consume their cannabis products.