Cannabis consumption lounges coming to Nevada

Audio: a conversation with Scot Rutledge about the groundbreaking legislation

Photo: the Ally

Updated on June 4, 2021 – If you visit Las Vegas or Reno to enjoy the fruits of legal adult use cannabis, you can choose to shop at a large number of well-provisioned dispensaries. But if you want to then use the products you purchased, safely, legally, your options are limited.

By law, cannabis can only be consumed on private property in Nevada. If you know someone in town, and they invite you to their property to use cannabis, cool, but if not, hotel rooms are off limits for cannabis smokers, and many hotels will impose stiff fines for smoking anything in their rooms.  

In Nevada, it is a crime to consume cannabis in a vehicle, moving or parked. Marijuana cannot be consumed in a public place. So Nevada’s coveted tourists are left to sneaking hits of weed in parks, alleys, and in their vehicles

But on June 4, 2021, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signed AB341 into law, which establishes the broad requirements for licensing cannabis consumption lounges.

There was very little language in the 2016 cannabis legalization initiative that addressed where cannabis can and cannot be consumed. The measure made no provision for public consumption of any kind. Advocates and campaign organizers weren’t asked about the issue of legal public consumption venues and didn’t bring it up. Again, under current Nevada law, cannabis must be consumed on private property.

Assemblyman Steve Yeager is a leading voice in the Democratic caucus and chair of the Assembly Committee on Judiciary. Yeager is primary sponsor of AB341, but few know more about the bill than Scot Rutledge.

Rutledge is a partner with Argentum Partners and currently represents the Chamber of Cannabis. He is a veteran of the effort to legalize and regulate cannabis in Nevada and a well-versed student of cannabis law. Rutledge has been working with Assemblyman Yeager, the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB), and countless others since last fall in crafting the 47-page AB341. We spoke with Scot Rutledge by phone.

See music credits below.

AB341 contains a groundbreaking provision intended to enable members of communities adversely impacted by the War on Drugs win cannabis consumption lounge licenses.

In 2019, the City of Las Vegas passed an ordinance to enable consumption lounges, but AB533, from the 2019 session, mandated the formation of the CCB and put a moratorium on new cannabis regulations until the CCB could form and become operational. The City could not move forward without the support of state law.

“But as far as how does this (the legalization of cannabis consumption lounges) position Las Vegas as far as cannabis tourism, I don’t think that there’ll be another market that can compete with us,” Rutledge said. “In the same way no other market has been able to compete with the resort experience with gaming and otherwise.

“In southern Nevada in particular, we are poised to really lead in cannabis tourism now that we’re going to allow these venues to exist. These venues are going to be able to allow for live entertainment. They’ll have food and beverage programs. No alcohol can be served or sold or brought on premise, but that’s OK, because these are really about … cannabis is going to be the intoxicant of choice.”

Rutledge said a bill like AB341 could only have been written and undertaken with the overarching guidance of the Cannabis Compliance Board. Having a regulatory body dedicated to the cannabis industry enabled consumption lounges to move forward. 

Here is a timeline for implementation of AB341.

The bill has an effective date of October 1, 2021. After that date, the CCB will begin creating the regulations for consumption lounges by holding public meetings and other stakeholder engagement. Cities and counties will develop ordinances. The license application window will likely open in January or February of next year. Provisional licenses will be granted, and the lounges could open sometime mid-year of 2022. The initial licensees will likely be attached to an existing dispensary.

For more, listen to the audio posted above. 

Music credits as reported to the Public Radio Exchange, in order of appearance:

Song: Aquarius
Artist: Boards of Canada
Album: Different Colors
Label: Warp
Date: 1998
Duration:1:10

Song: Open The Light
Artist: Boards of Canada
Album: Different Colors
Label: Warp
Date: 1998
Duration: 1:55

Song: Happy Cycling
Artist: Boards of Canada
Album: Different Colors
Label: Warp
Date: 1998
Duration: 1:08

Song: Truth Seekin’
Artist: Clutchy Hopkins
Album: The Storyteller
Label: Ubiquity
Date: 2010
Duration: 1:16

Song: Laughing Jockey
Artist: Clutchy Hopkins
Album: The Storyteller
Label: Ubiquity
Date: 2010
Duration: 1:34

Song: Chic Phunk
Artist: Montefroid
Album: Trip Hop Chilled Electronica
Label: Irma
Date: 2016
Duration: :55

Song: Talking City
Artist: Dust
Album: Trip Hop Chilled Electronica
Label: Irma
Date: 2016
Duration: 1:48