Social use cannabis venues soon to be a reality in sin city
We sat down with Scot Rutledge who has made a career out of engaging in important cannabis movements. Though he has a lot of topics we could discuss regarding the cannabis industry, this time we spoke about a hot topic in cannabis. Social use cannabis venues. Many states with recreational marijuana do not provide legal locations for people to consume. Social use venues will address that problem, and add some additional fun or consumers. Scot has answered important questions such as — Why is social use an important issue to address? What does it mean for consumers? How does it impact the cannabis industry at large?
Scot, thank you so much for hanging out with us again to discuss social use venues. You have most recently ventured into this new realm of the cannabis industry which hasn’t really been done in the U.S.. If it has been done before, it has not been done the way it’s going to be done in Vegas. You’ve been working on creating social use lounges. Places where Vegas tourists and locals can go to consume their product legally. Right?
Scot: Yes. I don’t know if it was an oversight by the authors of the recreational use initiative or because no one knew what the answer should be, but the initiative didn’t allow for any sort of social use. Basically, Nevada law says, “You can consume at home or on private property with owner’s permission.” That’s left consumers, especially tourists, with essentially zero options for locations where they can legally consume the marijuana which they purchase.
Recreational passed in 2016, and in the summer of 2017 the Legislative Council Bureau released a five-page opinion, essentially saying,
“It’s each local jurisdiction’s decision to determine their fate here. If they want to proceed with social use ordinances, they can. We don’t need a state law because it’s in the initiative stated under ‘private property with owner’s permission’.”
Now that the issue of social use has been placed in the hands of each jurisdiction, which location is moving forward first?
Scot: The City of Las Vegas. I’ve been working with their staff and the city attorney’s office. I’ve met with every member of council, some of them several times, to really walk through what this is going to look like. To figure out the best characteristics of a good ordinance.
Everybody agrees, even some members of council who opposed recreational marijuana in 2016, said, “We agree that we need a place for our 43 million tourists to consume. The city is saying that you can purchase marijuana legally, at 21 years of age and older, but we don’t give consumers a place to consume. We have to address that. We also have a lot of local Nevadans who need a place to consume where it’s legal and where its safe.”
What are some of the issues being tackled in creating this social use ordinance, other than providing a safe place for consumers to consume?
Scot: One of the issues we’re seeing is similar to what has been reported in Denver and some of the other major cities in states with legal marijuana. Because there’s nowhere for folks to consume, they will consume on sidewalks, public parks and places where they’re not supposed to consume. It becomes a nuisance for surrounding businesses and for people who are in those public places and don’t want to smell marijuana smoke.
Are you saying that cannabis consumption is a public safety issue?
Scot: There is a public safety issue. Because, you really don’t want people just walking around in public consuming marijuana. It’s a lot like alcohol in that way. Consumers should have places to go like bars, where they can consume.
So, the City of Las Vegas is going to address this, and is in the middle of that process right now. We’ll have an ordinance introduced next month.
That’s great! I know that law enforcement is a primary group to include inane conversation about marijuana and its impact on the public. What is law enforcement’s stance on social use?
Scot: Even law enforcement agrees that the policy for, “Where can I smoke this joint?” cannot just be, “Not here.”
Now Vegas has a year under its belt of legal adult use sales and the sky didn’t fall. So now we need to address this issue of social use. Social use is an important part of a well-regulated marijuana market, and it’s also about the social acceptance and normalization of cannabis. Law enforcement is on board because social use venues will keep consumers from smoking among the general public.
I know that a large topic of conversation has been DUIs and marijuana. Surely that’s an issue that law enforcement would like addressed. How will these venues address the issue of DUIs? Given that people will be going to these places to consume cannabis and then will have to leave to go home or back to their hotels?
Scot: There’s a lot that we still need to figure out about impairment and cannabis, especially when it comes to driving, but for now the law is the law and so the best thing we can do is to have cannabis consumption venues encourage their patrons to not get behind the wheel when they leave. It is an important public safety issue.
What will social use venues mean for the cannabis industry as a whole and what will it mean for consumers?
When we pass this ordinance, and these businesses open next year, we’re going to see something happen in Las Vegas that isn’t happening anywhere else in the world.
That is an industry of social use venues. Not where you can purchase like you can in Amsterdam. At these venues, you bring your cannabis from a marijuana dispensary, and you can sit down at a table with your friends. You smoke a joint, maybe have a beer, you order some food, maybe there’s some sort of entertainment in the venue. We’re going to do something here that nobody else is doing. Because it’s Vegas, we’re going to do it better in a way that’s bigger than anywhere else.
I totally agree. So, other than your influence in this social use movement, do you have a vision for where you’ll continue to go in the cannabis space? What’s next?
Scot: I’m enjoying working with clients right now on the regulatory aspects of this industry. I will be working with some clients on getting licensed for these new social use venues. After that, another area that we need to address is creating some rules around cannabis use at large events.
Are you talking large events like concerts and festivals?
Scot: Yes. People have smoked weed at basically every concert ever. The first concert I ever went to, in sixth or seventh grade, was Neil Diamond concert with my mother and her friend. We were sitting out on the lawn at this venue in Dallas and my mom’s friend lit up a joint. Literally, the very first concert I ever went to, people were smoking weed right there.
Every concert I’ve ever been to since, people are smoking weed.
Knowing that marijuana consumption at large events isn’t an issue that you’ve fully immersed yourself in quite yet. Going forward, what are your initial thoughts on what cannabis use at large events will look like?
Scot: First, it will be about allowing event-goers to consume cannabis on premises. Then, maybe even allow licensed dispensaries to set up pop ups and distribute or sell marijuana at large events the way beer vendors do. I think that is going to be a conversation for next year and going forward. In my initial conversations with regulators and lawmakers, there is definitely an interest in addressing the issue of cannabis consumption at large events like concerts and festivals.
Scot, tchank you for taking the time to discuss the present state and future state of social cannabis use! It’ll be exciting to see where this goes, what these venues look like and what impact they have on normalizing cannabis use. Especially since Vegas has the world’s attention. It sounds like from what you’re saying, that what Vegas does will have a big impact on how this issue is addressed in other places.
Scot: Absolutely. Always a pleasure. Until next time.
Next time we can check in on where that social cannabis use at large events is headed :).