Public use of marijuana to be debated during Nevada Legislature session

Marijuana is legal to possess in Nevada, but using it anywhere but inside of a private residence is a big no-no.

That is something the state’s most weed-friendly lawmaker wants to change in the upcoming Legislature so that tourists who come to Las Vegas and Nevada can legally enjoy the state’s new industry.

“If we’re going to bring people here for marijuana tourism, they need a place to use it,” State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said. “We don’t want them walking up and down the Strip smoking. Let’s give them some place to go.”

Segerblom intends to introduce a bill this session, which begins Feb. 6, that would give governments at the city and county levels the authority to issue public marijuana use permits for just about every possibility. Big events like the Electric Daisy Carnival, bars, hookah lounges or even designated pot-friendly streets or sidewalks would all be fair game if Segerblom’s bill were to pass.

“Anything you could think of, local governments could authorize,” Segerblom said.

But some in local government worry pushing for public usage a few months after legalizing recreational marijuana is simply too much, too soon.

In November, Denver voters approved a measure similar to Segerblom’s bill. That measure creates a four-year pilot program that allows most types of businesses, including cafes and yoga studios, to apply for a public-use license. That measure was curtailed slightly soon after the election when Colorado’s Liquor Control Board ruled marijuana use would not be allowed in Denver bars. That measure is expected to go into effect sometime this summer.

Colorado and Washington, which both legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, have set precedents for Nevada and other states as medical and recreational marijuana regulations are crafted. And lawmakers don’t see why the state can’t wait to see the results of Denver’s newest experiment.

“I’m concerned that we’re going so quickly on this,” Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said.

Sisolak said he’s worried that there are talks of adding new folds to the industry before the state has crafted the regulations that will guide and govern the recreational market. The Department of Taxation is drawing up the rules for the recreational marijuana market, but those aren’t expected to be finished until later this year.

There are also other issues relating to marijuana that the county wants to address, like the odor from cultivation facilities, Sisolak said. And he’d like to have more time to figure those out before jumping into discussions about public use, he added.

“I’m not saying it’s not a good idea in some point in time, but I don’t know when that point in time is,” Sisolak said.

Segerblom said he understands some lawmakers could be hesitant to let people start smoking in public settings, but he noted that the bill would put all the power into those lawmakers’ hands.

“It’s up to them. If they want, they can take 10 years,” he said. “I’m not forcing them to do anything, I’m just giving them the right.”

Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.