LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — On Tuesday, the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB) approved a conditional license for a cannabis consumption lounge on the AREA15 campus, which houses popular attractions such as Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart, Illuminarium, and a recently announced Universal Halloween-themed park.
According to Place.ai, AREA15 was the most visited attraction in the US in 2022, with 3.23 million visits. The popular spot near the Vegas Strip is often seen as family-friendly.
Because of that, some board members expressed concern about cannabis exposure to children if a lounge were to open.
“We say we’re ‘PG during the day, rated R at night’ is sort of the AREA15 motto,” said CEO and co-founder Winston Fisher during the public hearing. “We’ll be sensitive not to, one, put it in the face of families who are coming in because I don’t want to hurt that market. And at the same time, have very strict door policies.”
Fisher stressed that the lounge would be in a separate entrance and entirely separate building from the main AREA15 attraction so that families and children wouldn’t be exposed to any cannabis consumption.
He wouldn’t provide the board with exact details and plans because he didn’t want to tip off the competition, he said.
AREA15 is one of the ten independent license holders in the state. In October last year, the CCB issued 40 prospective licenses for cannabis consumption lounges; 20 for dispensaries, 10 for independent sites, and 10 for social equity applicants. Social equity applicants are those who were previously harmed by cannabis laws in the past.
So far, the CCB has issued nine conditional licenses, which is the next step in the process before a lounge can officially open to the public.
“The conditional license allows these consumption lounge licensees to just continue building out their space,” said Tiana Bohner, the public information officer for the CCB. “They’ll also need to get approval from the local jurisdiction that they’re located in. And finally, they’ll need to get a physical walkthrough of their lounge space, which is done by our CCB auditors and inspectors.”
Fisher and his attorney, Briana Martinez, told the board on Tuesday that the City of Las Vegas already granted their planning and zoning approvals.
AREA15 is located in Las Vegas Ward 3, which is represented by City Councilwoman Olivia Diaz.
“I want to make sure that folks know that it is in a separate warehouse building space that is behind, in close proximity to AREA15. But it’s not inside,” said Diaz. “And so, therefore, that gives me a lot of comfort, because I know that it’s not going near minors and families, but it’s going to be strictly an adult space that’s going to be accessed by folks who are going to want to consume, hopefully, their products in a responsible way that is also respectful of our community.”
Diaz said the city granted the approvals already because the location is in a highly commercialized area and not near any residential neighborhoods. She also said it was necessary to spread out the proposed cannabis lounges as many current proposals are hoping to be closer to downtown Las Vegas.
Fisher and his attorney noted the plan would be to make their lounge open 24 hours a day. They didn’t provide a timeline on the next steps in the process or when it might open to the public.
“The growth of the cannabis industry has tremendous economic potential for Las Vegas and the state of Nevada,” said Bradley Katz with Fisher Brothers Development. “We are excited to have been selected for a consumption lounge license and look forward to revealing more details on our future plans and specific location in the months ahead.”
Cannabis consumption lounges have been a long time coming in Nevada since voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, taking effect in 2017.
For tourists, especially, they can legally consume cannabis, but don’t have any place to legally do so.
Initially, some lounges with conditional licenses, like Thrive Cannabis Marketplace, were aiming to open by October this year. But a representative from Thrive told News 3 on Tuesday that date has now been pushed back to late November.