Democratic Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on June 13, 2019, signed AB 533, which postpones any licensing of cannabis consumption lounges until 2021, striking a blow to what many had hoped would allow Las Vegas to become a mecca of social consumption spaces.
On the other hand, Colorado is moving forward with plans to allow cannabis lounges, and in parts of California, lounges are on the way. Also, Massachusetts‘ Cannabis Control Commission on June 26, 2019, approved draft regulations for licensing marijuana cafes.
What isn’t yet happening in Nevada is starting to happen in other adult-use states. Advocates have long sought to legalize and regulate consumption spaces, and experts say public consumption lounges could bring social and economic benefits.
Regulators have essentially set up a Catch-22 by allowing residents and visitors to legally purchase cannabis, but then neglecting to provide areas where it can be consumed. Further, landlords can ban smoking, and thus cannabis, and evict violators. The federal government considers cannabis an illegal substance, which puts patients and residents of federally subsidized housing at risk of losing their homes. Tourists hoping to experience a city’s legal weed scene can find they’re not allowed to smoke in their hotel or short-term rental. Many end up smoking outdoors, which can also violate air quality and no-smoking rules, but visitors have nowhere else to go.
“Tourists are being told they cannot consume in their rental car, nor their hotel, nor on the street or in a park,” Cindy Sovine, a Colorado-based cannabis consultant, told Weedmaps News. “As a result of this nonsense, they are simply doing it everywhere.”
Beyond residents and tourists who want to consume recreationally, this issue affects medical cannabis patients who must consume their medicine throughout the day and may have no place to do so. Lawmakers and cannabis advocates in Alaska acknowledged this conflict when they approved opening consumption lounges earlier in 2019.
“I think cafes and lounges are going to be a great Ground Zero for folks to get the education that they need,” said Josh Drayton, outreach director for the California Cannabis Industry Association. Drayton said that cannabis lounges are places where people can learn to safely consume and what kinds of things they should consume, which is a benefit to the public.
“Creating atmospheres where folks can consume, experiment, and get a better understanding and education about how to consume appropriately is definitely more appealing than people getting intoxicated on alcohol and sending folks out into the streets that way,” Drayton said.
Furthermore, Drayton said people are attracted to the idea of cannabis lounges. For years, travel to Amsterdam has been boosted by visitors to its nearly 200 businesses and cannabis cafes where people can consume openly. Advocates say similar cannabis lounges could drive more tourism for cities in the United States. Lawmakers and business owners in California have argued that lounges could boost cannabis tourism while pushing for cannabis lounges in their state, and the same argument has been made by lawmakers and business owners in Oregon. A recent effort in the state to allow consumption lounges stalled, however. Among their arguments in favor of cannabis cafes is that hotels, bars and other businesses in a city wouldn’t have to worry so much about tourists trying to consume cannabis in their establishments.
“When people come to Colorado to experience our growing cannabis tourism, they are spending their money in our hotels, in our restaurants, in our museums,” Sovine said. “They come to experience all of Colorado, and they do it because of cannabis. Offering them full-service options for consumption will boost every sector of the local and state economy.” She said she believes cannabis tourism would increase if visitors knew they had a place to consume without any hassles.
Sovine said hotels and music venues also could consider opening their own consumption spaces as part of a convenient, all-in-one experience that also could boost profits. One hotel owner announced a plan to open a chain of cannabis-friendly hotels earlier in 2019, beginning in California, and other hotels in California are starting to designate themselves as 420-friendly to attract customers.
“Virtually every service industry can overlay consumption with their experience,” Sovine said. “Whether it is a massage therapist, or a haircut and a shave, businesses can provide a space and services to the cannabis-consuming customers while charging a premium for that service. Imagine hotels, coffee shops, music venues … all are coming into reality and providing high-value experiences in addition to a safe and legal place to consume.”
Though many lawmakers and business leaders are excited about cannabis consumption lounges and think they could boost tourism, tourism bureaus aren’t necessarily jumping at the opportunity to promote cannabis to visitors. Los Angeles’ and California’s tourism bureaus declined to comment for this report, and Las Vegas’ tourism bureau did not respond to a request for comment.
Drayton said cannabis consumers are “looking for places where they can consume safely and where they can have an experience.” Though the potential revenues are considerable for cannabis tourism, 4/20-friendly hospitality, and even cannabis industry conferences, the day when a vacationer can consider dropping by the hotel lobby bar for a cannabidiol (CBD) drink or a THC-infused snack aren’t coming to fruition any time soon. But considering all that can be done with cannabis, one thing is for certain: There will be a lot of ways to create a unique experience with it.
Featured Image: Las Vegas has a booming adult-use cannabis market, but venues to allow for consumption onsite won’t be coming until 2021. Democratic Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a bill in June 2019 that postpones licensing of consumption lounges until July 1 of that year. Most hotels’ no-smoking policies extend to cannabis. (Photo by Ameer Basheer on Unsplash)