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Pot lounge bill heads to Assembly, but Sandoval signature appears doubtful

Updated May 16, 2017 - 5:05 pm

Nevada’s pot lounge legislation inched closer to becoming a reality Tuesday, but Gov. Brian Sandoval appears wary of signing it.

Senate Bill 236 passed out of the Assembly Government Operations Committee on Tuesday. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, would authorize local governments to allow for various forms of public use, including consumption lounges. The bill now goes to the full Assembly for a vote.

If approved there, it goes to Sandoval, but he might be hesitant to give his stamp of approval.

“The Governor has called for Nevada’s recreational marijuana industry to be restricted, responsible, and ultimately respected,” the governor’s spokeswoman Mari St. Martin said in a statement.

“He is doubtful whether ‘pot lounges’ would achieve these stated goals but will review the legislation should it arrive on his desk for signature.”

The bill cleared the Senate last month on a 12-9 party-line vote, with Sen. Patricia Farley, I-Las Vegas, — a supporter of regulated retail marijuana — voting with Democrats.

A similar measure was moving through the Colorado Legislature this year. That bill cleared the state Senate but was stopped cold after Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper threatened to veto it.

Hickenlooper told Colorado media he was against having any smoking in workplaces and was worried such a measure could attract the ire of the federal government and give the Department of Justice a reason to go after the state’s billion-dollar marijuana industry.

That bill was gutted in Colorado’s lower house and died without going to Hickenlooper’s desk as the Colorado Legislature concluded last week.

At the local level, Clark County is mulling consumption lounges that would be located inside a marijuana dispensary or in an adjacent space.

The proposal has support from the marijuana industry, gaming regulators and some resorts because they believe it would give tourists a place to smoke marijuana purchased while visiting Las Vegas.

Segerblom told the Review-Journal after the meeting Tuesday that these clubs could be integral in fulfilling the governor’s budget, which included nearly $70 million in taxes from marijuana sales.

“This is really for the resort industry and tourism,” he said. “If (Sandoval) is going to try to raise $70 million in taxes from tourists, arguably they need to have a place to use it.”

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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