It’s not a new idea in the world – Amsterdam and Spain have been at it for awhile; but its still pretty new to America. Nevada is on its way to embracing social smoking, with now three licenses given out to owners of prospective consumption lounges. When can we expect them to open, and what kind of rules will apply?
Nevada consumption lounges
If you were super hopeful that the news was the opening of consumption lounges in Nevada, you’ll have to wait it out a bit longer. But the good news is we’re one step closer to that reality. The state of Nevada’s Cannabis Compliance Board announced on June 20th, that it had approved the licenses for three consumption lounges within the state. The three thus far chosen, come from a pool of 40 prospective license holders, who were picked randomly last November.
The three conditional licenses were awarded to: MM Development Company (doing business as) Planet 13, from Clark County; The Venue at Sol Cannabis, in Washoe County; and Cheyenne Medical Sammy Davis (doing business as) Thrive Cannabis Marketplace, from Clark County. These three operators can prepare their venues, but are still required to undergo a final inspection by the Cannabis Compliance Board in order to receive the official license. A lounge cannot open without this final authorization.
They must jump one last hurdle beyond dealing with the Control Board. All prospective consumption lounges in Nevada, must also get approval from their local jurisdiction; and follow whatever other local ordinances apply to them.
The idea of social smoking is new to America. Not only does half the population live in places without a recreational legalization; but even where they exist, there are strict limitations. Particularly on any kind of use out of one’s house, or some other private location. While private behavior isn’t monitored, public behavior is.
Which means, though in many locations there are legalization measures, and bars/restaurants that allow people to smoke weed under the radar; there aren’t many that can legally advertise such a practice. Nevada’s new laws for consumption lounges are some of the first in the US that are geared toward letting people smoke together legally, out of their houses. Oregon and Colorado also have such allowances.
What to know about consumption lounges in Nevada
The rules and regulations will likely change as things get further underway, as these consumption lounges are new to Nevada. For now, according to the Control Board, only 20 licenses for independent lounges are authorized in the state. An ‘independent lounge’ is one not attached to a dispensary. One attached to a dispensary is called a ‘retail lounge’, for which 20 licenses were given out as well. Of the 20 licenses given out for independent lounges, half went to social equity applicants.
How much does it cost to get in on this? For the low, one-time payment of a $100,000 (nonrefundable) processing fee, you can get your retail or independent lounge application in. Social equity applicants are given a break, and must only cough up $2,500. Keep in mind, this is just a processing fee for submitting an application; it doesn’t guarantee your lounge will open.
As per what we’re used to in life, the segregation between alcohol and cannabis continues with Nevada consumption lounges. Alcohol will not be permitted. This goes for both sale and consumption. So if you were thinking of it as a BYOB scenario, this is incorrect. In terms of where the product comes from, each lounge will broker its own deal with one or more legal cannabis retail locations, which will act as suppliers.
And another thing of note; there are no doggy bags. You cannot bring anything unused out of the lounge with you. This also implies you cannot bring in your own stash. These lounges are set up for social smoking, but its not just to give you a place to hang. You have to buy your product there, and use it fully there; or otherwise leave it behind.
As of yet, all rules and regulations posted by the Nevada Cannabis Control Board in relation to consumption lounges, are about requirements for licensing and operation. Beyond the parts I shared, not much is stated about rules and regulations for patrons of these establishments.
Cannabis became legal in Nevada on January 1st 2017, subsequent to a ballot measure in the 2016 elections. Question 2 was put before voters to legalize recreational cannabis use, with up to an ounce for personal possession. 54.54% of the population voted ‘yes.’ Two years ago, bill AB 341 passed, which authorized social smoking in the state via consumption lounges. There is no date given for when any particular lounge is set to open.
Where else are there consumption lounges?
Nevada is certainly not the first place to institute social smoking through something like consumption lounges. The most notorious example is still Amsterdam coffeeshops. Amsterdam coffeeshops operate under the government’s ‘policy of tolerance’ which was instituted in 1972, and allows the public use of cannabis without punishment. Cannabis is otherwise illegal for recreational use in the Netherlands, although there are personal use laws for up to five grams, and legal personal cultivation.
The coffeeshops were never well thought out in terms of supply, though. And after years, the Netherlands has been trying to formulate policies to govern how a coffeeshop is supplied. The contradictory laws allow what are essentially legal sales, with no legal supply lanes. As in, operators of coffeeshops can supply the weed to the above-board market, but buy it on the black market. The country is currently ‘experimenting‘ with legal procurement methods for operators.
This inability to create a legally consistent structure might be why there is constant talk of banning coffeeshops for tourists. Although as of yet, that hasn’t happened. The Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, still stand as one of the best-known ways for social smoking in the world today.
Spain’s way of doing it is just as much of a loophole operation. In Spain, cannabis social clubs operate as non-profit organizations, and have since the 1990’s. They get around Spanish laws by maintaining a closed system of growing and supplying, without the weed paid for directly. Members pay a fee to the club, and then the club supplies them the weed, and a place to smoke it. Clubs range in size from 3,000 to 50,000+ members.
Much like with the Netherlands, there seems to be a constant governmental push to find some way to close down the clubs or limit them to the public. This isn’t that shocking as Spain is not legal for recreational use, and these clubs are like a giant middle finger to the government. However, also like the Netherlands, it hasn’t happened yet. This isn’t to say that law enforcement doesn’t try its hardest, though; so beware of this legal battle playing out in the country, if taking a stoner vacation to Spain.
A few other countries allow social smoking clubs, or are constructing legislation for them, like Germany. Plenty others operate like Spain, where the clubs are open through legal gray area. In America, there are a couple examples as well. Colorado and Oregon allow social smoking, via Amendment 64 and Measure 91, respectfully. Washington, DC is trying to open them too, in an effort to reduce the black market. Interested residents and travelers should check out what’s available, if in places that have applicable laws or practices.
A legalization does not automatically result in cannabis social clubs, but it certainly opens the door. Nevada is the next state to take advantage of the fact people like to smoke together, by moving forward with its consumption lounges within the state.
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