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Las Vegas delays vote on marijuana lounge rules

Las Vegas Review-Journal

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The Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday postponed a possible vote on regulations for the upcoming cannabis consumption lounges.

The decision came as a relief to an industry trade group and Nevada provisional license holders, who told the council that a proposed 1,000-foot distance separation between the lounges, and what they described as “excessive” licensing fees, could set the businesses up for failure.

The agenda item was rescheduled for the March 1 City Council meeting.

About a half-dozen cannabis industry leaders who spoke during public comment requested additional talks with city officials in the next two weeks to help draft an ordinance that makes Las Vegas “a role model for other municipalities to follow,” said Paul Murad, a real-estate professional who “shares concern” with the prospective applicants.

Marijuana district?

Up to 15 of the business owners who were issued provisional licenses by Nevada’s Cannabis Compliance Board intend to open their locales within city limits. The speakers mentioned a possible district in downtown Las Vegas in which patrons could safely walk from lounge to lounge.

One of the provisonal state license holders, Chandler Cooks, said that finding a location to open his lounge within the distance restrictions has proved “nearly impossible.”

Five established Las Vegas dispensaries planned to open lounges attached to their retail spaces, while 10 such venues would operate as standalone facilities that will need to outsource their cannabis supply.

Seven of the independent licenses were granted to “social-equity” applicants in Las Vegas, who were negatively affected by marijuana laws before Nevada legalized the recreational use of the drug in 2016.

In the proposed ordinance, initial one-time business license fees were listed at $10,000, with the exception of the so-called social-equity applicants who would have to pay $2,500.

The speakers said that the fees were higher than other businesses, such as restaurants and wedding chapels.

“They need to be on the same level, not excessive just because they happen to be cannabis,” Murad said.

Dani Baranowski, vice president of the Chamber of Cannabis, said the fees could create “further roadblocks” and deter applicants who already face financing limitations.

“Adding these high fees will only add to the insane amount of capital they have to raise,” said Tina Ulman, president of the Chamber of Cannabis.

Distance requirement problematic

Baranowski said that the distance requirement forces applicants to “find expensive, out of the way, and non-profitable locations that will be hard pressed to get business.”

The proposed ordinance notes that the city could waive the distance separation between lounges, but not for locations near Symphony Park District, the Las Vegas Medical District or the casino-resort district.

The speakers did not challenge those restrictions, which also include a 1,000-foot separation from schools, and 300-foot distance from other public spaces, such as parks and religious institutions.

Other proposed regulations in the ordinance include mandatory safety and odor-control plans, an alcohol ban, the installation of 24/7 surveillance systems. No one under the age of 21 will be allowed inside, and an outdoor smoking ban can be waived.

All lounges will have to pay semiannual licensing fees depending on their earnings.

Clark County, the only other area municipality that opted into allowing the lounges, already established regulations for the up to 21 lounges it could allow.

Officials and industry leaders expect the lounges to begin opening later this year.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.


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