Nevada NewsMakers

News - December 27, 2018 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

Las Vegas must establish marijuana lounges to capitalize on tourism surrounding Nevada's legal recreational marijuana industry, Clark County Commissioner-elect Tick Segerblom said on Nevada Newsmakers.

Segerblom, who championed the recreational marijuana industry as a state senator before being elected to the commission in November, finalized his opinion about marijuana lounges after visiting some in San Francisco.

"What we really need to get this tourism off the ground are these pot lounges, so we can actually legitimately say, 'Come to Nevada, purchase it and there's a place to use it," he told host Sam Shad.

Currently, tourists and local residents can purchase legal recreational marijuana in Nevada. Yet Nevada law offers a dilemma for tourists since the only legal place to smoke recreational marijuana in Nevada is your home.

"We need to be able to say, 'Here's the place,' support it and get the publicity out there," Segerblom said. "If we do that, we will become like Amsterdam."

Segerblom was referring to Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, which has become world famous for recreational marijuana and tourism.

The potential for marijuana tourism in Las Vegas is huge, Segerblom said.

"We really haven't even begun to tap the recreational, tourism market," he said. "Most all of the sales so far have been local sales. And you can see they are going up, so obviously there a demand just within Nevada."

Sales of recreational marijuana has surpassed many estimates during the first year of taxable sales in Nevada. Earlier this year, state officials said the first annual retail and wholesales taxes on marijuana in Nevada amassed nearly $70 million.

Segerblom would like to see Nevada's state and local tourism agencies openly promote marijuana tourism.

"I would hope so, at least the Clark County Convention (and Visitors) Authority, maybe the Washoe County Convention (and Visitors) Authority should do that."

He has not yet had a serious discussion with convention authorities, however.

"I'm just trying to ease my way there," he said.

The fact that marijuana is still listed as a Schedule One drug (along with heroin) by the federal government remains a barrier to open endorsements of marijuana-based tourism by tourism officials, said Segerblom.

He is, however, not happy about it.

"That is such a bogus issue, the federal thing, because if you go to Colorado, everybody there is flaunting it," he said. "If you go to the universities (in Colorado), they are promoting it. But if they go to UNLV, they say, 'No, you can't do it because we will lose our federal grants.'

"Talk to the (Clark County) school district, (and say), 'This kid has a medical marijuana card and he needs medical marijuana in the school day.' And they say, 'Oh, we can't do it because we will lose our federal funds," Segerblom said.

"Federal funds have never been taken from any state (with legal marijuana) and we are such a small piece of this whole thing," he said. "California is 50 times or 100 times bigger than we are."

A big barrier for pot lounges in Nevada is you will first have to find a way to make a profit, Segerblom said.

"The biggest problem with pot lounges is, how can you actually figure out a way to make money on them?" he said. "Because just to have someone buy their own marijuana, bring it in and smoke it, doesn't really generate any money. Like so what is the point?"

Segerblom sees the pot lounges becoming part of the already-established marijuana dispensaries in Las Vegas, like some of the lounges he saw in San Francisco.

"Two were basically paid for by being tied to the dispensary," he said, referring to San Francisco lounges. "So the dispensary makes money when they sell the product and has the benefit of the lounge."

Segerblom said Las Vegas pot lounges might include food and drink.

"There could be food," he said. "I don't see, frankly, why there could not be alcohol, as long as you watch it carefully."

He sees two issues for any future Las Vegas pot lounges:

"First, you have to be very careful about the transportation," he said. "Make sure people don't drive in.

"And secondly, make sure there are no illicit transactions going on in there," he said. "So when you come in, I think you would have to show a package from one of Nevada's dispensaries, showing that what you use was purchased legally."