The Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Oct. 8, 2017. Steve Marcus, Associated Press)

Las Vegas may have marijuana lounges by spring 2018

LAS VEGAS — Officials want to make Las Vegas the country’s first city to allow marijuana smoking lounges, and hope to do so by March or April of 2018.

“We’re still trying to work out the little details,” said Bryan Scott, the city’s deputy city attorney. “But we’re trying to get it right without the feds coming down on us.”

Under the drafted regulation, the lounges would be allowed to obtain separate licenses to sell marijuana paraphernalia, like pipes, t-shirts and bongs. Scott also discussed the possibility of allowing food service, as long as the food sold at the consumption lounges did not contain pot.

Mary McElhone, the city’s deputy planning director, said sales of the plant itself, or any concentrates — like carbon dioxide oil, shatter or wax — would not be immediately allowed because the consumption lounges would not have state licenses to sell the plant.

Nevada legalized recreational marijuana possession and usage last November, allowing adults 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana flower or one-eighth the THC equivalent of concentrates. But the law limited consumption to private residences, leaving nearly all of the valley’s 43 million annual tourists without a place to consume legal pot.

Most of the about 20 speakers during public comment at the two — hour meeting in council chambers spoke in favor of the lounges. The pro-pot lounge industry members said that providing legal spaces to consume would reduce the amount of smokers in popular tourist areas, like the Las Vegas Strip, or near gaming areas where it’s banned by gaming officials.

But others were more cautious, urging city representatives to consider the 2013 Cole Memorandum’s guidelines before implementing such lounges. Speaking against immediate implementation of the weed lounges, Oasis Medical Cannabis Ben Sillitoe warned that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has long been a threat to weed-legal states, and would be more inclined to crack down on Nevada’s marijuana industry if the consumption lounge initiative did not meet Cole Memo regulations.

“If black market practices make their way into our cannabis lounges, our entire existence is at risk” Sillitoe said. “Sessions would like to see the Cole Memo taken away.”

Officials at Wednesday’s workshop said they plan to next address marijuana consumption lounges on Jan. 2.

Information from theLas Vegas Sun