Las Vegas cannabis parlors not ready for local regulations

Cannabis lounges are highly anticipated in Clark County, where millions of tourists visit the Las Vegas Strip each year.

But the impending arrival of commercial places to consume marijuana remains clouded by many unanswered questions, potentially chief among them: is the county ready?

“I’m not convinced of that yet, because I really don’t think we’re ready,” Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick said on Tuesday at a public meeting to discuss so-called social places.

The Nevada Legislature approved cannabis lounges last year, but state rules governing the industry are still in draft form. Local jurisdictions can create their own regulations to reinforce, but not weaken, guidelines established by the state.

That was the topic of Tuesday’s 90-minute session called by the county, with guests including members of the marijuana industry and the general public. County officials plan to present comments from the meeting to the state, which was scheduled to make a presentation but did not.

Kirkpatrick expressed concern about an interim state regulation that required applicants to be operational within one year of receiving a conditional license from the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board, which means the county must process the granting of licenses within this period.

Kirkpatrick said the salons would force county staff to put all other issues on the back burner, and she feared there might not be enough health inspectors to process the 33,000 business licenses already in the county no incorporated.

“I’m concerned. Twelve months?” she says. “We set people up to fail.”

It’s unclear how many salons could be established in the county — a number county officials may choose to limit — but it could be a few dozen.

State rules require lounges to be attached to a marijuana retail store, and there are 35 currently operating in the unincorporated county. However, it is unlikely that all will meet other necessary criteria, such as having sufficient space.

But there are also 20 independent licenses expected to be issued statewide, although it is not yet known how many businesses would seek to open in the county.

“It’s very difficult to determine because a lot of licensees think they want to be in Clark County,” said Scot Rutledge, a consultant with Argentum Partners, who worked on the state bill that legalizes salons. “That’s where the tourists come and that’s where the biggest population centers are.”

Ten of those licensees will be so-called social equity candidates, or those who have been harmed by the criminalization of marijuana. County officials said Tuesday they would like to ensure these businesses are locally owned, but there are no such provisions in the state’s draft rules, according to Rutledge.

Although there were more issues raised than potential local rules suggested on Tuesday, Commission Chairman Jim Gibson alluded to this, saying at the start of the meeting that the session would only be the “tip of the iceberg” as the county seeks to regulate the industry.

Contact Shea Johnson at [email protected] or 702-383-0272. To follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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