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Let Nevada Smoke: Push to Legalize Public Marijuana Consumption

Chris Roberts

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In legalized Nevada, marijuana smoking in public is still a revolutionary act—if your idea of raging against the machine is committing an “offense” that will barely raise an eyebrow among the people while risking a $600 ticket from police. 

As in the four other states that legalized recreational marijuana in November, adults 21 and over can cultivate and possess cannabis in Nevada, but smoking in public is forbidden. Those who want to use cannabis legally in Nevada have no venue for their sessions aside from private residences. Smoking in public, consuming at a bar or club, a private party, a dab lounge—none of the above is a thing you can do with the blessing of the state.

This is a pain. It’s also patently stupid.

Las Vegas is set to become the capital for cannabis tourism in America. Medical cannabis patients from other states with a government-issued medical marijuana identification card can already patronize Vegas dispensaries. Once the city starts opening retail locations, the city will be swamped with weed tourists from all over the world, who will be welcomed by being forced to huddle in furtive circles underneath neon-lit casinos, sneaking forbidden tokes of a legal substance. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, who represents Las Vegas, recognizes the madness. So the state’s most-cannabis-friendly lawmaker, Segerblom is now pushing a proposal to allow some public marijuana consumption in Nevada, as the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

If we’re going to bring people here for marijuana tourism, they need a place to use it,” he sagely told the newspaper. “We don’t want them walking up and down the Strip smoking. Let’s give them someplace to go.”

When Nevada’s legislative session resumes on Feb. 6, Segerblom plans to introduce a bill that would allow cities and other local governments the ability to issue “public marijuana-use permits.” Similar to the pilot program in Denver, where bars, art galleries, coffee houses and other businesses can apply for public-use permits, Segerblom’s plan would allow music festivals, hookah lounges and “just about every possibility,” all the way down to designated marijuana-friendly streets, to acquire a pot-smoking permit—provided the local government be down.

As usual, marijuana-friendly lawmaking in the legislature will be a slog. The usual cries of “it’s too fast!” and “let’s see what other states are doing!” are already echoing throughout the state. (Other states, for the record, have put up with weed smoking in public and outlaw puffing on bar patios for four years, just like they did before legalization.)

Segerblom’s plan even has opponents at home in Clark County, Nevada’s most populous county (and, obviously, where Las Vegas is located). Mary Beth Scow, one of Clark County’s elected commissioners, believes “having it in a public square when we just passed it” is too much. Another commissioner, Steve Sisolak, told the Review-Journal that the county needs more time to handle pressing issues like the “odor from cultivation facilities” before it can figure out where people can consume cannabis legally.

You never hear complaints about the sour smell of brewed hops shutting down a bar, but ok, then. How much time? That’s not prescribed in Segerblom’s plan, which would merely give local lawmakers the ability to permit public use at such time when they see fit.

“If they want, they can take 10 years,” he told the paper.

Great. If that’s what passes for marijuana-friendly, see you at the Vegas dab lounge in 2027—if we’re lucky.

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