Cannabis advocates and business owners in Las Vegas have called on city leaders to ease distance requirements between cannabis businesses, saying the move will promote the development of a cannabis region similar to Amsterdam. At a meeting of the Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday, the entrepreneurs also called for a reduction in cannabis business license fees, arguing that high costs are an unreasonable “hurdle” to starting a new venture.
The City Council was considering a proposed ordinance to regulate cannabis consumption parlors, which are businesses that offer cannabis to customers to buy and consume on the premises. In September, Council Paved the way for cannabis lounges It is set to open in Las Vegas with a 5-1 vote against a motion that would have prevented businesses from opening in the city.
At Wednesday’s meeting, several cannabis industry advocates and business leaders addressed the board, telling members that regulations requiring licensed cannabis businesses to be at least 1,000 feet from each other make it difficult for entrepreneurs to secure compliant properties.
“It is absolutely unreasonable to have someone walk more than three football fields to the next pub, restaurant, shop or casino,” says Tina Ullman, president and founder of The Cannabis Room. He said At a city council meeting on Wednesday. “Why do we want them to do this in places of consumption?”
Five licensed cannabis dispensaries in Las Vegas have plans to open cannabis consumption lounges as part of their business. Another 10 companies are expected to operate consumption parlors independent of the dispensary, including seven Social Justice applicants who were negatively affected by marijuana prohibition prior to the legalization of cannabis in Nevada in 2016.
The proposed law would allow the city to waive the distance requirement between consumption lounges, though not in some parts of the city including the Symphony Park district, the Las Vegas Medical District, or the casino resort district.
Danny Baranowski, Vice President of the Cannabis Industry Group, He said that the distance requirement forces applicants to “find expensive, out of the way, and unprofitable locations for which it will be difficult to obtain employment.”
Business leaders have told the city council that if distance requirements are removed or relaxed, the city’s downtown arts district could become “New Amsterdam,” serving as a destination for cannabis tourism that could attract visitors from around the world. They also noted that allowing consumption lounges and other cannabis businesses closer together would encourage walking and eliminate the temptation to drive while high, which would benefit public safety.
“The proposed measures have created unnecessary and harmful distance restrictions between lounges and significantly higher licensing fees compared to other companies,” said Chandler Cox, who was granted a temporary Social Justice consumption license.
Business leaders are calling for lower licensing fees in Las Vegas
Other business owners agreed with the cooks and called for a reduction in licensing fees for cannabis consumption halls. The proposed law includes a one-time business license fee of $10,000, with Social Justice applicants paying a reduced fee of $2,500. Lounges will also be required to pay an additional semi-annual license fee based on their earnings.
“Adding these high fees will only increase the insane amount of capital they have to raise” to start their businesses, Ullman said.
Baranowsky said high licensing fees can put “additional barriers” to success and discourage applicants who have trouble raising the capital needed to get their businesses up and running. Paul Murad, president of Metroplex Group, a real estate firm that owns businesses in the Arts District, said he looks forward to working with City Council on a number of issues related to the cannabis business, including reducing the costs of commercial licenses.
“We demand a significant reduction in licensing fees,” Murad said. “So they’re on par with other companies… They have to be on par, not excessive just because they’re cannabis.”
After hearing from business leaders, the city council postponed a vote on the proposed cannabis consumption lounge ordinance and rescheduled the agenda item for the meeting on March 1. Business leaders said they hope to use the next two weeks to work with the City Council on a draft ordinance that Murad said could set Las Vegas “as a role model for other municipalities to follow.”