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October 23, 2018

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Nevada Resort Association urges delay on marijuana lounges

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Jeff Chiu / AP

Customers smoke marijuana in the smoking lounge at Barbary Coast Dispensary in San Francisco. Las Vegas is considering an ordinance to allow marijuana lounges.

Nevada’s leading gaming and resort advocacy group is urging Las Vegas officials to hold off on a proposed ordinance to allow marijuana consumption lounges.

In a letter Tuesday to Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, Nevada Resort Association President Virginia Valentine said the proposed hookah-style lounges — where legal quantities of pot could be consumed by adults 21 and over — would create “unique challenges” for casinos near the lounges.

“Recreational marijuana has only been legal in Nevada since July 1, 2017, and it still relatively new in other states,” Valentine wrote. “Consequently, communities have little or no experience with the impacts of lounges on the communities or surrounding businesses.”

The letter, copied to members of the Las Vegas City Council, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo and Las Vegas City Manager Scott Adams, concludes by asking the city to delay opening the lounges “until further information is available from other jurisdictions.”

Councilman Bob Coffin, who has led the city’s efforts to move forward with the lounges — which would also allow for food and alcohol service — said the Resort Association already has made its opposition clear and Tuesday’s letter “won’t slow us down.”

Casinos in downtown Las Vegas have “been quiet” on the issue, he said.

Coffin said city officials have been moving slowly on the issue and that Valentine’s letter will be “part of the process” as city officials weigh opinions from advocacy groups. A city advisory committee will likely move the pot lounge proposal forward to be heard by the City Council in late October or early November, Coffin said.

Tuesday’s letter seems to contradict the opinion of some leading gaming operators in the Las Vegas Valley, which have previously advocated for lounges as havens for marijuana users to consume pot instead of inside casinos.

Speaking last year in favor of weed lounges as part of a Clark County marijuana advisory panel, Andy Abboud, senior vice president of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., said the lounges would reduce the number of tourists who smuggle marijuana into their hotel rooms and discreetly use it in prohibited places. The panel pushed for consumption lounges off the Strip.

Valentine and other representatives from the Nevada Resort Association did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman was out of the office today and not available for comment.

Riana Durrett, the Nevada Dispensary Association’s executive director, said the state’s leading pot advocacy organization remained neutral on the bill. Its more than 50 members are split on the lounges.

“It really varies by dispensary and by owner,” Durrett said. “The association doesn’t take a stance on it.”