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Nevada marijuana lounges may appear across state in 2022

Marijuana consumption lounges might begin to spring up this year, and state officials on Tuesday took a crucial step into making that timeline possible by adopting regulations for such businesses.

The Cannabis Compliance Board’s unanimous vote Tuesday was 11 months in the making after the Nevada Legislature legalized the lounges in 2021. It follows more than a dozen subsequent public meetings and workshops between regulators and stakeholders.

Currently, marijuana can only be consumed at private homes. The lounges, reminiscent to marijuana cafes in Amsterdam and some other cities, will for the first time bring the drug to social locales in Nevada, similar to alcohol being served in bars.

While minor wrinkles in the licensing and regulatory policies can still be ironed out, Tuesday’s step laid the groundwork for local jurisdictions to regulate pot lounges.

Municipalities can strengthen the state policies, but not weaken them. They can also limit the number of licenses they allow.

It comes as Stash Fine Cannabis Co. prepares to open Tonopah’s first cannabis dispensary at 1160 US-95, across the Esmeralda County line. The Source, a cannabis dispensary under construction in Pahrump, is also days from opening. But so far, no cannabis supplier in Nye County has announced intentions to open a lounge.

Current dispensary owners can apply for a license for lounges to operate adjacent to their business. Unincorporated Clark County, for example, has 35 marijuana retail stores.

As early as April, Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick expressed concern about county resources needed to process licenses. “I’m not sold on this yet, because I really don’t think we’re ready,” she said at the time.

The state said it will only issue 20 licenses to independent entrepreneurs.

Half of those licenses must go to “social equity applicants” who have negatively been affected by previous marijuana laws before the drug was legalized in 2017.

In cases when there are more applications than licenses, the permits will be given out through a lottery, according to the board.

Former Raiders player and ex-Las Vegas Councilman Frank Hawkins, who owns the Nevada Wellness Center dispensary in the central valley, told the board that he wants to see more entrepreneurs “who look like me.”

Hawkins, who is Black, added: “I want to make sure that those that don’t have lawyers, those that don’t have consultants, those that can’t afford to pay people a lot of money that they understand what it’s going to take and what they have to do.”

Only one license will be handed out per business owner, the board said.

Restrictions on licenses include that lounges not be within 1,000 feet of a K-12 school, within 300 feet from a community facility or within 1,500 feet from a gambling establishment, according to the board.

All applicants must submit a diversity plan and have at least $200,000 in liquid assets, the board said.

Only those ages 21 and older will be allowed in, and no alcohol could be served, or nicotine-based products sold.

The guidelines also outline ventilation, sale limits, security, proper signage and labeling. Employees will have to submit to training, such as how to spot overconsumption and mitigate impaired driving.

No firearms will be allowed, according to the regulations.

After a month of educational efforts to prepare prospective license holders for the application process, the board will open a 10-day application window, officials said. That is projected to happen in the fall.

The process is not perfect and regulations can later be changed through other channels, such as future legislative sessions, board member Dennis Neilander noted.

“As we’ve always said, this is going to be a work in progress for some time to come,” he said.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.

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