Pot Lounge Interpretation Raises Regulatory Questions - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Pot Lounge Interpretation Raises Regulatory Questions

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The Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB) says state law does not prohibit local governments from allowing pot lounges or cafes, possibly opening the door for the recreational marijuana industry to expand.  People can buy weed in Nevada as long as they are 21 years old, but they can only use it in a private residence. The LCB's interpretation could allow it to be used in designated lounges, special events and concerts.

"If I'm on the go, and I want to stop somewhere, just relax for lunch or something, have something to eat and be able to toke up before or after my meal, I think it would be much easier," Anthony McLaughlin, Sparks resident said.

Some marijuana dispensaries started selling recreational pot on July 1, but regulations do not allow its use on their property.  Still, the idea of pot lounges are appealing to some in the cannabis industry.

"We're very cautiously optimistic," Dillon Secklin, Dispensary Supervisor at Silver State Relief said. "We try not to lean too far into one side or the other, but it would help the situation. Especially for tourists."

Many tourists buy recreational marijuana, but don't have a place to legally smoke or eat it, since it is not allowed in hotels.

"You can't use it in a car, you can't us it outside your home," Will Adler, Director of the Sierra Cannabis Coalition said. "If those become regulated at the local level, you could see a new avenue for marijuana tourism, people coming in who could stay in a hotel room and use it in those places."

Adler says "Amsterdam-Style Lounges" would put Nevada on the map for recreational marijuana, but it would have to be done the right way with proper regulations.  Despite the LCB's findings, he says it could be awhile before pot lounges open.

"Don't expect them to crop up everywhere because it's still up to the local government to say 'Hey, we're going to regulate these at our level because the legislature hasn't done anything with it yet," Adler said.

Governor Brian Sandoval opposed legalizing recreational marijuana, but voters approved it in the 2016 election.  Since then, he has focused on putting strict regulations on the drug.  He disagrees that local governments have the ability to allow pot lounges.

"That opinion really doesn't have precedential value," Sandoval said. "I also question it because there was a bill that was introduced in the legislature to allow for pot lounges, which again, I opposed. That bill didn't go anywhere and now I feel like they've circumvented the legislative process to happen."

Sandoval says the interpretation could open Nevada up to strict federal scrutiny.  It would be the first state to have pot lounges or parlors.  Other sales and distribution regulations would make it difficult for businesses to open them.

"It's going to cause confusion," Sandoval said. "It's something that I question whether it's legal or not. I think that's an issue that should be considered by the legislature and decided there in 2019."

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