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Nevada Governor Dashes Hopes of Marijuana Cafes

Everyone got Excited About a News Report that Suggested Cities and Counties Could Decide for Themselves on Lounges

Earlier this week a report came out that said counties and cities in Nevada could decide for themselves whether they would permit cannabis lounges or cafes where people could gather in an establishment to indulge in recreational marijuana. Everyone briefly thought that the Amsterdam atmosphere was on its way to Las Vegas, but the Nevada Governor put an end to that idea quickly.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval has never been a supporter of public consumption of recreational cannabis. Doesn’t marijuana cafe’s in Las Vegas make sense though?

Cannabis consumers in Nevada thought they were handed a small victory earlier this week, after the state’s Legislative Counsel Bureau released an opinion saying that no state law prohibits local governments from permitting pot consumption in businesses. That optimism was quickly diluted by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, however, who said he’s opposed cannabis-consumption lounges from the beginning of legalization talks and will continue to do so. Nevada voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana in November 2016.

The conflicting stances between government branches and business owners and cannabis advocates is nothing new in Colorado, which has a four-year head start on Nevada with recreational cannabis — but has yet to figure out its own social-consumption issues. Denver is currently the only municipality in Colorado with a program for businesses to apply for social-consumption permits, but the original backers of Initiative 300, which Denver voters passed last November, have accused the city of bastardizing I-300’s intentions with harsh location restrictions. They’ve threatened to sue if changes aren’t made.

Consuming cannabis in public is illegal in Colorado, thanks to a sentence in Amendment 64 (the proposal voters approved in 2012, legalizing recreational pot) that says consumption may not be done “openly or publicly” – a phrase that many of 64’s supporters wish they could take back. The result has been a state with over 600 dispensaries that’s largely devoid of anywhere for people to smoke outside of their own homes.

“City and state officials have decided to interpret such language as restrictively as possible. It was absolutely not the intention of Amendment 64 to prohibit social use, but rather to leave it up to cities/counties to decide,” says Emmett Reistroffer, a cannabis business consultant and drafter of Denver’s social-use initiative. “What I think it was intended to be was that Amendment 64 didn’t legalize cannabis to be consumed on a public sidewalk or in a public park.”

Reistroffer and Denver entrepreneur and mayoral candidate Kayvan Khalatbari have been battling with city officials since Denver’s social-use application program officially started August 24, taking issue with the changes made to their social-consumption initiative. Now, in order to be approved for a social-consumption area permit, a Denver business must be 1,000 feet away from any school, child-care establishment, drug or treatment facility, and city park, pool or recreation center.

Three weeks after opening the application process, the city still hadn’t received any applications, but that hasn’t surprised the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, the agency overseeing the program. “We have heard from several parties who are intending to do so. We don’t expect to receive any applications for a while, because folks are still negotiating leases and getting their ducks in a row,” says Dan Rowland, director of public affairs for the Department of Excise and Licenses.

Reistroffer, who’s used to taking two steps forward and three steps back in his fight for social consumption, says he’s happy for consumers and business owners in Nevada, but after speaking with insiders in Nevada, he believes that state’s social-consumption progress reports may be a little overblown.

“I think people there are happy but still optimistic,” he says. “The news is making it seem like cannabis clubs can open in Las Vegas tomorrow. Basically, what happened is a senator asked Nevada’s legislative review board to look at the issue, and they did a review. The local cities and counties will still have to approve an ordinance to permit such types of establishments…. However, I think it will take another three to six months before anything is official. And then after that, it could take another six to twelve months before anyone obtains such a permit.”

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