Nevada legislative counsel: Local governments can approve pot smoking ‘lounges’ | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Nevada legislative counsel: Local governments can approve pot smoking ‘lounges’

Geoff Dornan
Nevada Appeal

FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2016 file photo, plants grow at the home of Jeremy Nickle, owner of Hawaiian Holy Smokes, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hawaii says it will be the first state to require marijuana transactions to be handled without cash. Hawaii state officials said Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, medical marijuana dispensaries won't be allowed to accept cash beginning Oct. 1, 2017, and will have to use a debit payment app instead.

The Legislative Counsel Bureau’s office has issued an advisory opinion saying nothing in Nevada law prohibits permitting a business to offer customers a special venue to enjoy marijuana at a special event or to have a “pot lounge” for patrons.

The opinion was requested by Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who has championed the legal and recreational use of marijuana through several legislative sessions.

According to the opinion signed by Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes, the law prohibits possession of consumption of marijuana in “any public place or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view.”

It also prohibits consumption by anyone younger than 21.

However, the opinion states, “this language would not prohibit the possession or use of marijuana at a place to which the public is not invited or permitted including a person’s home or a lounge or other facility with restricted access….”

Gov. Brian Sandoval said Tuesday he hadn’t read the opinion yet, but he doesn’t regard it as the final word on the issue.

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“An LCB opinion does not have precedential value,” Sandoval said adding he would prefer an official Attorney General’s opinion on the subject.

Asked whether his administration was considering asking AG Adam Laxalt’s staff for an official opinion, Chief of Staff Mike Willden said, “we’re working on it.”

Sandoval also expressed concern allowing “pot lounges” in Nevada might draw the attention of federal law enforcement.

“It absolutely might invite federal scrutiny,” he said. “It opens a door I don’t think we want opened.”

The issue has come up repeatedly since voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Nevada as both operators and potential patrons of such events as Burning Man asked whether it was now legal to use marijuana at those events and, for example, concerts.

Marijuana use still is illegal under federal law but the federal government has, so far, declined to interfere in the growing number of states where medical and, increasingly now, recreational marijuana use, is now legal.

The LCB advisory opinion issued Sept. 10 simultaneously affirms the power of counties, cities and towns to control licensing and permitting of any such lounge or other venue where patrons are allowed to use marijuana and to impose other restrictions on those businesses.

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