A celebrant smokes marijuana on the official opening night of Club 64, a marijuana-specific social club, where a New Year's Eve party was held in Denver on December 31, 2012. (Brennan Linsley, The Associated Press)

Vegas waiting to see how Denver’s social marijuana venues work out before trying them

LAS VEGAS — Officials with authority over the Las Vegas Strip on Tuesday decided to wait until the city of Denver approves the nation’s first marijuana club before they further discuss licensing and regulating pot lounges in Sin City.

Nevada launched legal sales of recreational pot on July 1, and there’s been heavy demand from tourists. But the law only allows it to be used in private homes, leaving visitors without a place to legally smoke the drug.

The initial discussion among commissioners in Nevada’s Clark County came after attorneys for the Legislature recently concluded that nothing in state law prohibits local governments from allowing the lounges. The commissioners at first said they wanted an opinion on the issue from the district attorney’s office, but as the discussion continued, they concluded they would rather wait.

“I don’t know if we need to be first or not, I don’t see any reason why we have to be the first, but we certainly have to be right,” commissioner James Gibson said during the public meeting. “…We have to make sure that when we do our part, we’re entirely consistent, we’re thorough in the way we’ve done it (and) we don’t make for ourselves a mess that it would take years to get out of.”

Denver allowed businesses to submit applications to open marijuana clubs in late August, but it hasn’t received any so far. The slow start was anticipated as the application is extensive, including a requirement that businesses get support from community groups.

Several companies still are exploring the idea and trying to line up the necessary support from community groups. At least one group called Denver Vape and Play hopes to file an application this fall with the city and released a Facebook video last week promoting their plans for a “vape bar” facility.

Adults in Nevada 21 years and older have been able to legally buy recreational marijuana since July 1. Public consumption is prohibited, including at Las Vegas’ world-famous casinos, bars, restaurants, parks, concerts and on U.S. property, from national forests to federally subsidized housing.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican former federal judge, initially opposed legalization of recreational marijuana voters approved last November but said he accepted the will of the people and pushed an early-sale program that began in July instead of waiting six months later as scheduled to expedite collection of revenue from state pot taxes.

Sandoval said he’s worried legalization of pot lounges might invite more federal scrutiny of Nevada’s pot sales — an issue that commissioners also addressed during Tuesday’s meeting.

Andrew Jolley, president of the Nevada Dispensary Association and a store owner, told The Associated Press after the meeting that a county advisory panel intends to present commissioners a plan involving a pilot project for a few lounges. He said the project would help better understand the “dos and don’ts and pitfalls” of operating the facilities.

“What I heard from the commission today is that they are open to the idea in concept, but they are not ready to move forward today,” Jolley said. “My reading of the situation is that they are looking for more concrete and specific ideas to discuss and to debate when formulating their decision.”

Associated Press writer Kathleen Foody in Denver contributed to this report.