Bill would pave the way for cannabis lounges

Bill would pave the way for cannabis lounges

By Jeri Davis, This Is Reno

Marijuana has been legal in Nevada for years now, but a lot of people—visitors and residents—don’t have a legal place to consume it. Assembly member Steve Yeager’s recently introduced bill would change that.

Assembly Bill 341 seeks to pave the way for the opening of cannabis consumption lounges in the state.

The lack of places for people to consume cannabis in Nevada has turned tourists, mostly unwittingly, into criminals. They’re not supposed to smoke pot in their hotel rooms or on casino property—and they’re not allowed to smoke it outdoors in parks or on public streets either. It’s also a problem for renters, whose landlords are allowed to prohibit cannabis consumption on their properties.

“They can’t bring it into their hotel rooms. They can’t consume it outside,” Yeager said during his presentation of the bill to the Assembly Judiciary Committee on April 2.  

While it seems clear that tourists would benefit most immediately from the creation of lounges, Yeager also noted the benefit to Nevada residents.

“Perhaps they rent and are forbidden from consuming by their landlord. Perhaps they live in subsidized housing where federal restrictions would apply. Or perhaps they just don’t want to consume in their homes for personal reasons,” he said.

If AB 341 passes, it will allow for cannabis lounges to be built next to existing dispensaries or as standalone businesses. Unlike a bar, patrons would be allowed to bring their own cannabis to a lounge or purchase it there.

The bill also includes a social equity provision that would give people who’ve been convicted of cannabis crimes during the “war on drugs” an advantage in the application process for lounges. 

Lawmakers on the committee questioned whether this leg up would apply to people who also had convictions for other crimes like burglary or assault alongside their cannabis convictions. The answer it seems, would depend somewhat on whether the crimes were violent or a misdemeanor or a felon. 

Being convicted of certain types of felonies would automatically disqualify a person from owning a lounge in much the same way that felons are prohibited from owning firearms.

In recent years, both the City of Reno and the Washoe County Board of Commissioners have considered looking into what it would take to pave the way for cannabis lounges but have not taken action.

The bill has been heard in two committees now. However, additional amendments to it from Yeager are likely in the coming days.

If the bill does pass out of committee, it will still need two-thirds support to pass in the Assembly and Senate before it can make its way to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s desk—meaning Democrats will need to get some Republicans on board with it for it to stand a chance.