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City proceeds with potential cannabis lounge regulations

By Kelsey Penrose

The city will be asking the community for its thoughts on cannabis lounges before finalizing local regulations for the facilities. Reno City Council members on Wednesday said they wanted to hear more from residents to help craft rules for how the businesses could operate in the city. 

The decision came after city staff asked council for direction on how to move forward regarding the approval of cannabis consumption lounges, as well as curbside and drive through pickup of cannabis products. 

Cannabis consumption lounges are to cannabis retail stores what bars are to liquor stores – they are locations in which individuals may consume single-use cannabis products on the premises. 

In 2021, Assembly Bill 341 approved cannabis lounges and directed the Cannabis Compliance Board to create a regulatory framework. 

Under state approval and jurisdiction, there is a regulatory oversight dealing with the physical location of retail lounges, product procurement and storage, employee training, indoor air quality and health standards for food preparation. 

By state law, only one “ownership group” may hold a cannabis lounge license, with a cap of 20 lounges available statewide within the first round of licensing. 

The city may also limit the number of lounges allowed. Carson City, for example, has banned cannabis lounges from operating within city limits entirely. 

If the city chooses to limit the number of cannabis lounges, retail lounges (lounges attached to retail locations) must not exceed the number of independent, or stand alone, lounges. 

Lounge application fees are $5,000, but the city could also choose to increase that amount. The state, for example, charges $100,000 for a retail lounge and $10,000 for an independent lounge. 

There are eight retail locations that could “conceivably apply” for a lounge permit, according to staff: two in Ward 1, three in Ward 2, two in Ward 3 and one in Ward 5. Ward 4 does not have any retail stores that could qualify. 

Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus
Councilmember Jenny Brekhus.

Council member Jenny Brekhus said whether or not to allow cannabis lounges was not a priority and staff shouldn’t waste its time on it. 

“We’re going to be going out and telling the public we’re putting our time focused priority into introducing a new use of cannabis lounges into the zoning code when we are really falling behind on basic things like regulating short term rentals,” Brekhus said. “People aren’t coming to me about this. No one is really asking for this.”

Council member Devon Reese disagreed with Brekhus. As the at-large member, he said, he represents the city as a whole, and he is asked about the lounge topic from a range of residents “at least twice a week if not more.” 

“I’m being asked from the entire age range, from 21 years old to 85 year olds,” he said. “And I’m not getting calls about short term rentals. It’s one of those things – the Ward 1 representative is clutching pearls about a ‘thing,’ believing that staff doesn’t have the ability to do more than one thing at a time.” 

Reese went on to say that cannabis is legal in Nevada, and retail locations as well as consumption lounges are legal businesses. 

“As a city we should be supporting all legal businesses,” he said. 

Council member Naomi Duerr said she would like staff to return to council to report what they found during a public outreach phase prior to creating text amendments to the city code. 

Naomi Duerr, Reno Council member.
Naomi Duerr, Reno Council member.

“I’d like to get some feedback, hear it, then give you some direction on developing those text amendments,” Duerr said. 

Mayor Hillary Schieve said cannabis lounges would be a boost for tourism. 

“Because Nevada has approved cannabis, we get a lot of questions about this [from tourists]: ‘Can I have this in my room? Do you have consumption lounges?’ – it’s a real thing,” she said. 

Schieve also indicated that the state is asking for potential Letters of Intent regarding licenses, and a 10-day application period is coming soon for the entire state. 

“When we talk about time, I want to be clear, this is something from the state,” Schieve said. “It is relevant, and it is timely, we should be discussing it now. We have an obligation to the state to hear this.” 

Deputy Chief Tom Robinson from the Reno Police Department was present to discuss the cannabis industry impact on local crime and his concerns on some of the regulations being discussed such as drive-thrus and allowing 24-hour a day operations. 

“So far the local industry has not caused a lot of concerns for us,” he said. “We haven’t had a lot of calls for service. It’s been a well-run industry. We have some concerns about our ability to police [dispensaries] 24-hours a day, we have concerns with drive-throughs due to traffic jams. Other than that, they’ve been a very well self-policed industry.” 

Council member Oscar Delgado said he would like to take on whether or not to allow drive-throughs at cannabis retail locations or 24-hour service on a case-by-case basis so the council could determine whether or not those options were right for the locations and the neighborhoods they served in. 

While the city has the option to allow and regulate outdoor cannabis smoking areas, Brekhus stated not only did she not support outdoor smoking, but that all smoking should be banned outside of homes within the city of Reno. 

“Our lungs are suffering every single day and we’re going to create a whole new swath of smoke businesses? No,” Brekhus said. “Whether it’s through hookahs or bongs or joints I will not support that new use [of cannabis] in the city of Reno. I want to go the other way: to make smoke-free casinos, smoke-free bars – it should be in homes.” 

Council member Duerr agreed with Brekhus that smoking is an issue. 

“[People are] beginning to recognize that smoking – no matter the substance – is harmful to our lungs,” said Duerr. 

Duerr stated that she would be prepared to approve lounges however. 

Council member Bonnie Weber stated she believed council needed to be cautious and would not be in support of or against lounges until she heard from the public. 

Council voted to direct staff to conduct public outreach to gain the community’s opinion on cannabis lounges, as well as expanding drive-through, curbside pickup and 24-hour operations to current retail operations, with Council member Brekhus voting against. 

Illegal street racing

Burnout activity near Veterans Parkway was not hard to find.
Burnout activity near Veterans Parkway was not hard to find.

During public comment, Duerr gave public comment against illegal street racing. 

“We’ve had street racing and sideshows for decades,” she said. “Most of us grew up with it, it’s almost considered a right of passage with kids. Today it is much different. It has taken a whole different turn.”

Duerr said her attention was first brought to the issue when she received a call from Reno Town Mall for a sideshow that had attracted hundreds of individuals. 

“The merchants were terrified. The entire parking lot was torn up,” she explained. 

Several people were arrested and others were cited during an illegal street racing event that “shut down the streets” near Damonte Ranch and Curti Ranch, Duerr said,  noting it’s a problem in south  Reno.

“Hundreds of people came, prom was getting out at Damonte Ranch High School, they shut down the streets entirely, numerous people called law enforcement,” she said. “People were terrified — absolutely terrified. They were calling 911.” 

Duerr said in a video submitted to the city, a person was seen in the back of a truck “hanging on for dear life” while the driver of the vehicle did “25 or more” doughnuts. 

Duerr asked to bring the issue back before the council as an agenda item, and suggested towing the vehicles involved could be a deterrent. 

Duerr also stated that, while the legislature approved downgraded traffic citations from misdemeanors to civil infractions without jail time, she would like to see the council work with legislators to “make sure that’s what they intended” by downgrading those charges.  

Other council business

Provided by the city and edited by This Is Reno.

Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility

Council approved a consulting contract with Carollo Engineers, Inc. for the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility (TMWRF) pre-design in the amount of $1.24 million. The city of Reno will pay $855,657 from the Sewer Fund. Funding will provide the pre-design and evaluation component for filtration and disinfection within TMWRF. 

CDBG Pedestrian Ramp and 10th Street ADA Improvement Project

Additional CDBG Pedestrian Ramp improvements were approved on Mt. Babcock Street and Mt. Shasta Street, and Bartley Ranch Road and Wheatland Road, increasing the contract with NVNJ Construction Group to extend the working contract days and increasing the contract by $47,425, for a revised total project cost of $177,150 from CDBG and Street Funds. 

The project scope includes the installation of six new ADA compliant pedestrian ramps, as well as five new installation or replacements of sidewalk segments within the 10th Street area. 

Teglia’s Paradise Park Gate Additions, Playground and Restroom replacement 

Walker River Construction, Inc. was selected for the Teglia’s Paradise Park Gates Project for up to $269,953 from CDBG Funds. The project includes installing three sliding gates at the entrances to the parking area, intended to reduce the frequency of overnight parking and “unlawful activities” within the park. 

In addition, Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. was selected for professional design services for playground and restroom replacement and upgrades at the park for up to $135,000 from CDBG Funds. 

Wingfield and Barbara Bennett Parks

Stantec Consulting Inc. was also selected to consult on developing a Master Plan for Wingfield and Barbara Bennett Parks for up to $139,100 from the Capital Project Fund. With the upcoming Arlington Bridge Reconstruction Project, staff said there is a need to create a master plan for these two downtown parks.

Dick Taylor Park

Another $180,000 was approved for the Dick Taylor Park Playground Improvement Project, and a contract to Garden Shop Nursery was awarded for playground improvement for $229,921 from Parks Capital Maintenance and RCT District 3 Funds.

The project includes installation of an inclusive playground structure, two ziplines, and a pour-in-place safety surface. 

Dorothy McAlinden Park

Aviation-themed playground equipment was approved for Dorothy McAlinden Park from Landscape Structures Inc. for $479,012 from CDBG and ARPA Funds.

Adaptive Sports Programs for Veterans

A grant was accepted from the Department of Veterans Affairs for Adaptive Sports Programs for Disabled Veterans and Disabled Members of the Armed Forces Program for the Fit But Not Forgotten and Military to the Mountains Veteran Fitness Classes held at Evelyn Mount Northeast Community Center, or an alternate location, for $53,000.

Outdoor Dining Fees

A resolution to temporarily waive outdoor dining fees was adopted through 2023 to support the continued recovery of businesses impacted by COVID-19, and to “activate public spaces, create a more walkable community, and further the city’s redevelopment goals.” The fees were originally waived when businesses reopened in May 2020 to promote social distancing during the pandemic.

DPII Master Plan and Zoning Map Amendment

Council discussed changing an eight-acre site located near Claim Jumper Way and Tellurium Mine Drive from Unincorporated Transition to Single Family neighborhood. Council members upheld the Planning Commission’s recommendation and approved an ordinance introduction, referring it for a second reading and adoption to rezone the site to SF8. 

NNMC Northwest Extended Care

Council upheld the recommendation of the Planning Commission and approved an ordinance introduction for a zoning map amendment from Multi­Family Residential – 14 units per acre to Public Facilities for development of the Northern Nevada Medical Center extended care facility. The nearly five-acre site, currently used as an assisted living/skilled nursing facility, is located on the north side of Sharlands Avenue just east of Robb Drive.

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