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‘We can actually see the finish line’: Debate on marijuana lounge ordinance continues

Clark County Commissioner Jim Gibson said a Tuesday discussion on marijuana lounge regulations was “designed” to help push an ordinance over the finish line.

But after months of talks, and lengthy presentation by the county’s business license department Tuesday, Gibson and and his six colleagues are still not there.

However, there appears to be a consensus on some of the new proposed rules, such as a 24-hour no-tow order for customers who want to get a ride after consuming the drug, not capping the number of licenses issued, allowing live entertainment, and establishing a last-call for establishments that aren’t open 24 hours a day.

County staffers will now iron out the details before the ordinance returns for a final vote.

Commissioner Tick Segerblom, who was instrumental in Nevada’s pot legalization efforts, said he expected that vote to take place within a month, a timeline in tandem with Nevada’s window for state license applicants that opens Oct. 14.

He projected the opening of the first lounges licensed by Clark County to take place in the early months of 2023.

“It’s been a long, long time coming, but we can actually see the finish line,” Segerblom said. “And sometimes you have to crawl over the line, but we’re getting there.”

The lounges, legalized during the 2021 legislative session, will operate as social gathering spots akin to taverns, but with no alcohol sales allowed. For the first time, smoking pot outside of private homes will be legal.

Nevada, which put no limits on licenses issued for lounges attached or adjacent to dispensaries, will issue 20 independent licenses statewide for standalone establishment. Half of them would be for “social equity applicants” who were negatively affected by marijuana laws before the drug was legalized.

A point of contention Tuesday centered on minimum separation requirements for the lounges. Nevada guidelines set those distances at 1,500 feet from non-restricted gambling establishments such as casinos, 1,000-feet from K-12 schools, and 300 feet from community facilities, such as public parks and churches.

Gibson had previously noted that it made no sense to him that schools and public places did not have the same protections as gambling halls.

The commissioners eventually appeared to agree at a uniform 1,500-foot distance from gambling establishments, schools and public places. It’s unclear if the county will waive the new distance requirement for dispensaries that are currently too close to casinos, schools or public facilities. The lawmakers discussed possibly allowing waivers, at least for already-licensed dispensaries, on a case-by-case scenario.

Other previously established regulations included prohibiting guns and nicotine sales, and not allowing people younger than 21 inside.

After the regulations are approved, a month-long effort to educate prospective license holders will commence, and will end with a subsequent 10-day application window.

Segerblom said that staff would now draft an ordinance “and then we’ll have a chance to look at that, vote on that, and then we’re off to the races.”

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.

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