CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A Las Vegas Democrat argued before his colleagues Thursday that Nevada's history of promoting vices and the state's lax laws on smoking indoors make it prime to legalize the nation's first public sites to use marijuana.
Cities and counties in Nevada would have the authority to license public places or events where adults could legally use marijuana under state Sen. Tick Segerblom's proposal.
State law currently confines the marijuana use to private homes.
Segerblom said Nevada should give local governments the discretion to designate businesses, festivals, casino bars, clubs, outdoor events, massage parlors or other public spaces where the tens of millions of tourists who visit Nevada every year could smoke or consume pot. Segerblom urged his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which he is chairman, to acknowledge that many tourists will buy recreational marijuana and, as far as the state knows, have nowhere to legally use it.
"My thought is, rather than not knowing and making it a hazard for the police and everybody else, let's provide them a venue," Segerblom said. "We don't want them, I don't think, just out there in the park with your kids or walking up and down the Strip smoking marijuana."
Senate Bill 236 would prohibit local governments from issuing the licenses to locations within 1,000 feet of a school or community facility and state regulations already bar marijuana from being used around gambling activities. Casinos could request to allow marijuana at a bar, but not at card tables or slot machines.
Details would largely be left to cities and counties. They could grant pot licenses a short- or long-term basis, require licensing fees and attach a special set of penalties for any misuse of marijuana at the venue.
"The history of Nevada is, when we were low on revenue, we would authorize things like gambling that no other state would do," Segerblom said, adding Nevada was one of the first states to sanction — and tax — early divorces. "The question is: Will marijuana become another one of these vices or pleasures?"
Nevada is one of eight states with legalized recreational marijuana. None currently allows its use in public.
Maine and Massachusetts will allow the licensing of pot social clubs or consumption at dispensaries once their recreational marijuana industries are fully implemented, which is not expected until 2018.
No such licenses have yet been issued in those states and they would not allow marijuana use outdoors, at festivals or many other settings that could be certified under Segerblom's proposal.
State senators in Colorado on Thursday advanced a measure that would legalize pot social clubs in that state.