Although cannabis is now legal in Nevada, elected officials are hesitant to fully embrace it as a legitimate part of the economy. Recently, Washoe County commissioners voted against allowing cannabis consumption lounges to operate in unincorporated areas, highlighting the ongoing challenges faced by entrepreneurs in an industry that has long been criticized by drug opponents and prohibitionists.
In a disappointing outcome, the vote effectively ends SoL Cannabis' plans to establish the first cannabis lounge in Northern Nevada. This would have provided a unique space for adults to legally consume cannabis products.
The recent vote doesn't just affect one cannabis company, but the entire industry. It highlights the challenges faced by cannabis operators trying to move away from the negative legacy of the nation's failed war on drugs and into a future where adults have the choice to use cannabis the same as they do with alcohol.
The path to legalizing cannabis lounges has been a challenging journey for hopeful entrepreneurs. They have faced political resistance, regulatory hurdles, and cultural opposition to their businesses. Only three businesses have obtained preliminary approval from Nevada's Cannabis Compliance Board to establish consumption lounges. However, these businesses must still seek local approval and comply with regulations before progressing further.
Local government hurdles are causing challenges in Washoe County. In the city of Las Vegas, lounge operators face political bias against their business and products. Las Vegas city officials have recently crushed the hopes of a cannabis district downtown by implementing numerous regulations. These regulations include a minimum distance requirement for lounges to be away from churches, parks, casinos, and even other lounges.
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom has been instrumental in creating a welcoming environment for the cannabis industry in unincorporated Clark County. Without this friendly approach, it seems unlikely that cannabis lounges would ever become a reality in Nevada.
Washoe County's strict stance on these businesses is driven by a commitment to public safety, a matter that has raised significant concerns among members of the public who voiced their opinions.
Tracey Thomas, vice chair of the Washoe County GOP, highlighted the need for cannabis consumption lounges to be located on public transportation routes, eliminating the need for individuals to drive their own vehicles.
That sounds like a great idea, except the Washoe County GOP is unlikely to support increased public transit options, so Thomas' remarks can be interpreted as a push to ban these establishments in most of the county. Now the real question is would concerns about impaired driving be enough to justify banning a whole business model in certain parts of the county? And, if so, where does alcohol fall into these "Concerns"?
Driving under the influence of cannabis is a legitimate concern for patrons of a cannabis lounge. However, this issue should not be used as a reason to ban the entire business model, especially if the lack of nearby commuter transportation options is the main argument.
Think about the profound effect these standards would have on other industries that also hinder people's decision-making and cognitive abilities. Consider how many bars, taverns, casinos, and restaurants that serve alcohol do not have the same level of convenient access to public transportation that Thomas argues should be mandatory for cannabis lounges. Is this a legitimate concern about public safety and intoxicated drivers or is this really about targeting cannabis-related business because of personal views?
Concerns over public safety regarding cannabis lounges in Washoe County and throughout the state are valid. However, enforcing strict regulations or outright banning the consumption of marijuana will not address these concerns effectively.
The legalization of cannabis lounges also helps give the industry the credibility and legitimacy it deserves. It is crucial for newly legalized sectors of the economy to have the chance to thrive. Yet, this development also highlights the reluctance of elected officials to let go of outdated perspectives from the misguided war on drugs.
The recent vote against allowing cannabis consumption lounges in Washoe County reflects the ongoing challenges faced by the cannabis industry in Nevada. This decision not only affects SoL Cannabis but also highlights the difficulties entrepreneurs face in gaining acceptance and legitimacy for their businesses. The path to legalizing cannabis lounges has been arduous, with political resistance, regulatory hurdles, and cultural opposition standing in the way.
While concerns about public safety are valid, it is important to approach the issue with a fair and balanced perspective. Targeting cannabis-related businesses while overlooking similar concerns in other industries raises questions about personal views and the lingering influence of the war on drugs. Ultimately, embracing the legalization of cannabis lounges would provide an opportunity for the industry to thrive and gain the credibility it deserves in the evolving landscape of legalized cannabis.