Las Vegas has taken one step closer to allowing cannabis consumption lounges within the Las Vegas Valley, possibly by the end of the year.  Sin City is now on pace to become the first city in the state to allow open-consumption social lounges.

Yesterday in a 4-1 vote, the Las Vegas City Council passed an ordinance allowing medical cannabis dispensaries and recreational retail stores to apply for special use permits to construct and open cannabis social lounges. Councilman Bob Coffin sponsored the proposal and was successful at getting a vote just before the draft ordinance was set to expire. The only “No” vote came from Councilman Stavros Anthony, who is a retired Metropolitan Police Department captain. The councilman has been vocal about his desire to see the city stay in step with the position of the state and invite other governments to weigh in, including other cities that make up the Las Vegas Valley.

The state legislature killed a bill earlier this session that would have legalized cannabis lounges. City Councilman Coffin stated, “The state will catch up. We can’t wait for the state to act.” While there is not a provision in the state law that allows for cannabis lounges, the City Council is interpreting a 2017 opinion that the city feels provides the authority to issue permits for lounges. The Legislative Counsel Bureau issued an opinion in 2017 that said under existing law, local governments could issue licenses provided that marijuana usage was not visible to the public and that all patrons were at least 21 years of age.  Dispensaries that choose to open cannabis lounges will be allowed to sell cannabis products on property.

Other members of the City Council saw this bill as the next logical step towards clarifying where it is legal for those that are visiting Las Vegas to enjoy cannabis.

“I’m not advocating smoking marijuana, but what I am advocating for is making sure we as a government agency do not create criminals by basically not giving them an outlet after we’ve passed a state law’” Councilwoman Michele Fiore said.

The biggest takeaway from this vote definitely has to be the restrictions that the city intends to place on the cannabis lounge industry. Every cannabis lounge will have to remain a certain distance away from schools and religious centers. While everyone loves the idea of a cannabis lounge in the center of the Las Vegas Strip, don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. Recreational cannabis lounges will be located away from the casino action since marijuana usage is still federally illegal. This has led many to speculate about future locations or if the city is going to create a Green Light District that is close to the strip.