Setbacks for Las Vegas Cannabis Lounges

Stephen Andrews
19 Jun 2023

Great excitement has been building up around the launch of cannabis consumption lounges in Las Vegas. However, businesses and consumers will have to wait. The attractive venues were anticipated to open for the summer, but administrative setbacks and changing regulations regarding smoke ventilation have likely delayed the majority of businesses for months.

The big plan for Las Vegas for the summer of 2023 was that there would be dozens of cannabis consumption lounges up and running, offering visitors the possibility to freely smoke weed inside premises or enjoy other weed-infused delicacies and treats. But this dream for many will have to wait a few more months. Following a change in regulation, only a few lounge sites are expected to work by September-October. 

Industry insiders have raised concerns about Nevada's consumption lounge regulations, in particular rules around indoor air quality and the enormous costs of installing and maintaining air-ventilation systems. 

The new regulations on air quality appear to be more stringent than for traditional hookah bars and taverns, where patrons in Nevada are free to smoke tobacco if the smoking venue is located in a separate room and where children are not allowed. 

Many lounge companies do not appear to have the capital to implement the air system requirement. Fulfilling this requirement could be especially tough for social equity licensees. 

"It's hundreds of thousands of dollars just to have a system, and if you're talking about a 2,000- or 3,000-square-foot space, that's a lot of money just to move air," says Scot Rutledge from Argentum Partners, a government affairs and marketing firm based in Reno. 

Consumption lounges are clustered in three main markets around the country: Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The plans to position a new cannabis lounges market in Las Vegas have been years in the making. Globally reputed for its hospitality and entertainment industry, Nevada is eyed by many as the perfect spot to nourish canna tourism. 

The only legal consumption site currently in Nevada is the NuWu Cannabis Marketplace, located on tribal land just two blocks away from downtown Las Vegas. NuWu visitors can enjoy an outdoor dab and order a weed-infused drinks at the bar. However, this venue is regulated by the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe and not the government. 

The multistate cannabis company Planet 13 Holdings is among those expected to operate a lounge venue. Planet 13 wants to convert its Mexican eatery, Trece, into a consumption lounge, restaurant and entertainment venture within its 112,000-square-foot superstore right next to the Las Vegas Strip. 

Initially, the statewide launch of cannabis lounges was supposed to take place last year. The latest setback may be temporary, and authorities are optimistic they will find workable solutions to accommodate all future lounge operators. 

The Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board organized a digital draw to grant the licenses for lounges. Over 40 operators have been awarded a work permit, around half of which are facilities attached to existing cannabis shops, and the other half would be run as independent venues. In addition, ten social equity lounge licenses have been granted to individuals with nonviolent cannabis convictions who live in a designated disadvantaged area. 

Stephen Andrews