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Nevada lawmakers tour San Francisco pot smoking lounges

Nevada lawmakers tour San Francisco pot smoking lounges

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Sen. Tick Segerblom is convinced “anything is possible” after he and other Nevada lawmakers toured San Francisco pot lounges, gaining insight into how to introduce such establishments where marijuana can be consumed legally outside the privacy of one’s home.

Clark County and Las Vegas officials have explored the possibility of such lounges as far back as September 2017, three months after recreational sales became legal in Nevada.

San Francisco is the only major U.S. city to offer full-scale facilities where the plant can legally be smoked, vaped, dabbed or eaten.

The one-day fact-finding trip to the Bay Area on Monday took them to two consumption lounges, Harvest and the Barbary Coast, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

At the Harvest, a high-stakes NFL Monday night football game lit up an 82-inch television on the wall. Swing music played in the background as about two dozen people sat around eating pizza still steaming hot from a neighboring restaurant, the newspaper reported.

Others in the cozy indoor facility sat on a side couch in front of their laptops, placed on one of five small coffee tables. A woman in her 20s reclined peacefully in a heap of pillows on another sofa, with wireless headphones covering her ears.

The scene of a legal marijuana consumption lounge in 2018 varies greatly from what previous generations may have associated with legalized pot, said Tom Powers, the guest service manager at Harvest dispensary. When Powers and college friend Marty Higgins purchased the dispensary three years ago, its attached consumption lounge — filled with old, tie-dye curtains and a dirty carpet floor that reeked of the plant — attracted drug addicts and “unsavory” clientele, he said.

Now, after a complete interior makeover that includes the installation of four chandeliers, a large array of modern furniture and a state-of-the-art ventilation system, Powers’ facility attracts primarily women, seniors and millennials of all cultures and backgrounds.

“There’s so many misconceptions about the industry still,” Powers said. “But this is the reality of our business. It’s a slow process.”

The lawmakers started the day with a two-hour conference with San Francisco’s Office of Cannabis. At that meeting, agency director Nicole Elliott told the Nevada cohort that local government’s lead allowed lounges to take a trial-and-error approach to entering California’s legal weed industry as far back as 2008. Since then, as state law has evolved to accommodate, as many as seven lounges across the city operate successfully with only three being shut down by federal authorities.

While San Francisco authorities have allowed the pot lounge industry to thrive, they’ve essentially warned business owners to operate at their own risk, Elliott said.

“We warn them that the state might not always see eye-to-eye with us,” she said.

The seven-member delegation on the tour included Assemblyman Steve Yeager and North Las Vegas Councilman Isaac Barron.

Segerblom said he hoped to bring the lounges to the county as early as January when his term begins, while Yeager wishes to establish minimal ventilation and taxation requirements at the state level.

Barron, who takes credit for making North Las Vegas the home of the area’s first 24-hour dispensaries, said he wants to follow suit as soon as consumption lounges are up-and-running in other area jurisdictions.

Segerblom described the tour as “impressive,” saying San Francisco’s pot lounge policy was the best he had experienced to date. Pot lounges could bring growth of Vegas marijuana entertainment facilities.

“The first dispensaries in Las Vegas looked just like this,” he said, standing in the main lobby of Harvest. “We can start small, but we don’t have to.”


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