Viva Pot Vegas? The Las Vegas Strip prepares for new cannabis rules
Las Vegas (and the entire state of Nevada) legalized marijuana, but didn’t make it easy for tourists to use. That’s because while dispensaries like Planet 13 (PLNHF) operate legally, they are not allowed to have on-site drinking lounges.
Additionally, hotels, including the massive casinos operated on the Las Vegas Strip by Caesars Entertainment (CZR) – Get the report from Caesars Entertainment Inc.MGM Resorts International (MGM) – Get the MGM Resorts International Reportand Wyn (WYNN) – Get Wynn Resorts, Limited Report do not allow (and cannot by law) people smoke marijuana on their properties. This means that while people can take edibles and other forms of smokeless cannabis anywhere they want, there are no places where tourists can legally smoke marijuana.
It’s a problem that has made much of the well-known smell of marijuana on the Las Vegas Strip. The police almost never cite someone just for smoking cannabis in a public place (even though that’s technically legal), but legal cannabis without legal smoking parlors creates a problem for a city where all sin, more or less , is encouraged, but usually behind closed doors.
Las Vegas gets consumer lounges (but not the Strip)
In late 2021, the Nevada State Legislature passed a new law allowing recreational cannabis business owners to apply for licenses to open on-site consumer lounges.
“Consumer lounges allow adults to smoke, eat or dab cannabis products,” Las Vegas Eater reported. “…The new legislation allows an existing dispensary to add space for a salon, with only one salon allowed, regardless of how many locations a dispensary has. The other model allows independent businesses to build a consumer lounge with single-use cannabis products for sale.”
It remains illegal to consume cannabis in casinos and hotels. That could change for hotel-only properties (and one operator has already started planning a cannabis-friendly hotel), but that’s unlikely to change for casinos, due to federal law.
“Due to the Federal Cannabis Classification, Nevada casinos must avoid any direct or indirect involvement in the cannabis industry. The Nevada Gaming Commission has repeatedly warned its licensees that marijuana should not be permitted anywhere in their premises, Casino.org reported.
Recent legislation authorizing cannabis lounges has led to the creation of the Cannabis Compliance Board, which will decide how licenses will be granted. What is clear, however, is that these licenses will not go to Caesars, MGM, Wynn or any other casino operator and it will drive customers away from these properties.
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Will Cannabis Harm Las Vegas Strip Casinos?
MGM, Caesars, Wynn and other mega-casino operators built their properties to keep customers from leaving. Every major casino not only offers hotel rooms and games, but also restaurants, shows, spas, gyms, and just about anything else you can imagine. It’s about keeping people there and spending money.
Under current cannabis rules, Las Vegas tourists must leave their hotel (and the Las Vegas Strip) to visit a marijuana dispensary. Planet 13, for example, is about a mile from the Strip, and while there’s a restaurant and cafe, you can’t consume cannabis on the property.
This is something that will soon change under the new law and could increase the time Las Vegas tourists spend away from major casinos.
Planet 13 has major plans for a consumer lounge adjacent to its huge dispensary, which will include a swimming pool and a 5,000 square foot outdoor balcony. Given the company’s success in creating attractive retail, it’s likely that it could create a consumer lounge experience that draws customers away from casinos, which legally cannot compete.
“Gaming sites seeking to operate more than 15 slot machines and/or table games must acquire an unrestricted gaming license from the state. Nevada’s cannabis consumption means the closest such a place could be to a casino is nearly three-tenths of a mile away,” Casino.org reported.
Planet 13 will not be the only player,
Lissa Lawatch, general manager of Oasis Cannabis, is planning a beach-themed lounge in hopes of attracting tourists from the Strip a block away, Cannabis Business Times reported. The property will be similar to the beach clubs offered by many casinos.
It’s hard to know exactly what impact consumer lounges will have, but they’ll likely turn customers away from Caesars, MGM, Wynn and other properties. This could ultimately cause these companies to push for legislative changes to allow them to get in on the consumer action, but it’s a federal issue – not a local issue – so while you can drink, smoke cigarettes, gluttonously eating and, of course, gambling, in Las Vegas casinos you won’t be able to legally and comfortably smoke marijuana and it should divert a few dollars from these properties.