Nevada could become the first state to allow users of recreational marijuana to light up in clubs and lounges, a state legal body said this week, opening a new front in what is already a booming pot business.
The state Legislative Counsel Bureau said Monday that state law does not prohibit city or county governments from operating a lounge or facility in which patrons may use marijuana.
Cities and counties are allowed to adopt their own rules governing those businesses and decide whether they are required to obtain special permits, the bureau said.
The ruling means tourists and visitors may soon have a place to consume marijuana in public. Pot smoking is banned under state law in Nevada’s hotels and casinos.
None of the four other states where marijuana is legal for recreational use — Washington, Colorado, Alaska and Oregon — currently allow so-called pot lounges. All four states restrict marijuana use to private residences. The three other states where legislators and regulators are finalizing rules in advance of legalized marijuana — California, Massachusetts and Maine — are not currently considering legal pot lounges.
Legalization advocates say pot lounges are a logical step, especially if states where marijuana is allowed hope to connect their pot industry to tourism.
“Allowing regulated social use areas is a good solution that recognizes cannabis consumers’ rights to congregate just like alcohol drinkers can in bars while also protecting nonconsumers’ rights not to inhale secondhand smoke,” said Tom Angell, the founder of Marijuana Majority, a pro-legalization group. “It should be a no brainer, especially in tourist towns like Las Vegas where visitors don’t have private residences they can go back to to imbibe.”