In June 2022, the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB) approved regulations pertaining to the licensing and operation of cannabis consumption lounges in accordance with its authority under Assembly Bill 341 (2021). Following the CCB’s implementation of the regulations, the license application window was opened from October 14 – October 27, 2022. During the application period, the CCB received ninety-nine applications, and on November 30, 2022, the CCB identified forty applicants who would be prospective holders of consumption lounge licenses. Of the total forty applicants identified, twenty were applicants that already held cannabis retail licenses in Nevada and intended to operate consumption lounges attached to their retail dispensaries, ten were social equity applicants that intended to operate standalone consumption lounges, and ten were non-social equity applicants that intended to operate standalone consumption lounges.
While cannabis consumption lounges seemed to be moving in the right direction in Nevada, prospective operators have experienced hurdles that have delayed the opening of consumption lounges, including changes to the regulations. Now, those prospective operators are faced with more challenges, including concerns regarding indoor air quality at consumption lounges. Specifically, the regulations include stringent air quality standards that require, among other things, that air be circulated every two minutes – a requirement that is even more stringent than those imposed on cigar bars, taverns and hookah lounges. Installing ventilation systems that meet the requirements set forth in the regulations would be a costly undertaking for an operator, with some industry experts estimating that a compliant HVAC system would cost nearly half a million dollars to install. Moreover, monthly utility bills are expected to be in the thousands of dollars. With cannabis operators already experiencing difficulties accessing capital due to the status of cannabis under federal law, and the volatility in the economic market as a whole further exacerbating capital constraints, some prospective operators simply do not have the capital required to build out a consumption lounge that complies with the strict regulations.
Some operators who are already in the build-out phase have been forced to pause construction while they attempt to raise the funds required to address the air quality requirements. Other operators have elected to halt construction until a final version of the regulations has been adopted, in order to avoid having to revise their build-out plans if the regulations are further revised.
When the CCB first approved the regulations, many predicted that consumption lounges would be open in Las Vegas as early as the end of 2022. That time line was subsequently pushed back to the second quarter of 2023, with many hoping that consumption lounges would open by 4/20 and, if not, by early summer in time for the tourists flocking to Sin City for their summer vacations. As prospective operators struggle to complete their build-outs, industry insiders have again revised the time line to sometime in the third or fourth quarter of 2023.
For now, the only consumption lounge where tourists can legally consume cannabis products is NuWu Cannabis Marketplace, which also includes a retail dispensary. Because it is located on tribal land, it is not required to obtain a consumption lounge license from the state.