Cannabis-friendly Lexi Hotel navigates Nevada’s marijuana rules

Cutting the ribbon on Las Vegas’s first cannabis-friendly hotel, The Lexi. Photo courtesy Elevations Hotels and Resorts

Two days before The Lexi Hotel on Sahara Avenue was scheduled to open to guests and a day before people were invited to an opening reception, Elevations Hotels and Resorts CEO Alex Rizk was nervous.

Much of the old furniture that was used in the Artisan Hotel, the former name of the 64-room property, was sitting in the hotel’s parking lot and Rizk was promised a shipment of new furniture that day — though he wasn’t sure if it was going to arrive on time.

But it did.

The evening soiree went as planned and when the day came, people began checking into their rooms of what is billed as Las Vegas’ first cannabis-friendly lodging.

“At some point, you’re forced to accept the fact that everything won’t be perfect for the first 60 to 90 days, but we’ll still do our best to open up with what we have,” Rizk said in an interview during a media preview of the hotel’s opening.

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Rizk said his new fixtures were ordered, bought and paid for months ago, but supply-chain issues resulted in all those dressers, drawers and chairs sitting undelivered in cargo ships.

The snags that set back The Lexi’s opening from April to June may be a preview of coming attractions as Rizk and his team work through the laws and regulations of Nevada’s fledgling cannabis industry.

While not focused on cannabis, The Lexi in Las Vegas is cannabis-inclusive. Photo courtesy Elevations Hotels and Resorts

Boutique hotel

Rizk, who hopes The Lexi becomes the flagship property for Elevations Hotels and Resorts, has been promoting the boutique non-gaming hotel for its open-arms policy to recreational marijuana use.

The Lexi also has a tops-optional pool — Rizk prefers to refer to it as a European-style pool — a bar, and a members-only lounge for exclusive dinners and food and entertainment offerings.

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But the cannabis angle is what draws most of the attention, even though Rizk doesn’t want that feature to be the only thing that draws people to it.

“We’re not cannabis centric, we’re cannabis inclusive, so you don’t come to our hotel just because of that,” he said. “That’s just one of the perks and the cherry on top of the sundae. What we really want to do is to make sure that we navigate those laws until they are permanent and then evolve with them and add in more cannabis comprehensive programs once it’s allowed.”

Regulators and the city of Las Vegas will have a say in what can and can’t happen at The Lexi.

“The Lexi does not hold a state cannabis license of any type, including for a cannabis consumption lounge,” Tiana Bohner, public information officer for the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board, said in a statement. “The CCB has not been contacted by The Lexi, and so we cannot comment on the legality of their specific business plans without additional information.”

Rizk said he has no intent to try to circumvent any cannabis laws and has no immediate plans for a smoking lounge.

“Having a lounge is one of our main goals,” Rizk said. “But when we talk about these lounge licenses, right now, they all assume that you would also have a retail license attached to it so you could go to that lounge and purchase cannabis at the lounge and sit down and use it.

“We have no intention of doing that. We don’t want to touch the flower, we don’t want to be a retail cannabis company. We exclusively want to allow the use of cannabis on our property wherever it’s legal and permitted. But we are a hotel company and not a cannabis company per se.”

A lounge at The Lexi could also face a City of Las Vegas roadblock because, according to a city spokesperson, the hotel is within 1,500 feet of a licensed gaming property.

The Lexi boasts 64 newly designed rooms and suites, is the first new hotel to open in Las Vegas this year, and is the only cannabis-inclusive property in town. Photo courtesy Elevations Hotels and Resorts

A line in the sand

The Nevada Gaming Control Board has drawn a line in the sand separating cannabis companies from gaming companies because the federal government views cannabis as an illegal substance. Under Control Board policy, gaming licensees cannot conduct business with any cannabis company.

“The hotel’s location is within a 1,500-foot radius of a hotel-casino, Palace Station, so Lexi does not meet the minimum distance requirement to apply for a consumption lounge license,” said Jace Radke, a city spokesperson.

“The city hasn’t issued any consumption lounge licenses yet,” he said. “The state law on marijuana consumption provides guidance on where cannabis can be used publicly and privately.”

Nevada’s state law says that marijuana can be consumed only on private property, so long as the owner has not prohibited it. And, since the Lexi is prohibiting consumption at all except its fourth-floor rooms, Rizk views it as permissible.

“This is where the law is very gray,” Rizk said. “Once you check in, this is your residence for the night. It’s the same thing if someone came in and burglarized your room or stole your stuff. You would be claiming against your home insurance for that. We are a commercial address, but we will not accept any cannabis delivery here. And that’s why the lounge is not an option for now, unless the law is revised.”

Rizk said maybe someday, the laws will change and if they do, Elevations and Lexi would be in a position to adapt quickly. He said it’s possible that someday his company could go into a joint venture with a cannabis company so it could sell its products and have a storefront at the hotel.

Policy will evolve

“I think that those laws are very new and they will evolve,” Rizk said. “Nevada, specifically Las Vegas, is well known for evolving and constantly changing. The goal for us right now is to be a trailblazer and pioneers of being part of those early conversations so as the law is evolving, we’d love to be a part of the reason why it evolved and give some guidance.”

He could also look at bartop slot machines if gaming regulators ever changed their stance on conducting business with cannabis companies.

“That’s a revolution at that point, right? Everything at that point changes. There’s a reason that there’s not a lot of people doing what we’re doing, because they’re waiting for that magical moment,” he said.

“But truthfully, we’re very far from that.”

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