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KUNR Today: Cannabis Lounge Legislation Back On The Table, Heat Waves Could Disrupt Future Crops

Michelle Matus
KUNR Public Radio

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Monday, Apr. 5, 2021.

Lawmakers Mull Cannabis Consumption Lounges, Again
By Paul Boger

A proposed bill would clear the way for cannabis consumption lounges across Nevada.

Under AB341, patrons would purchase or bring in their own pre-packaged cannabis products in order to consume them inside, similar to bars. It’s illegal to consume pot anywhere in public under current law.

Democratic Assemblyman Steve Yeager of Las Vegas presented the measure to Assembly Judiciary Committee Friday. He said this is just as much about economic development and equity as it is about cannabis consumption.

"The goal isn't to define what is possible with these business models, but to provide operational requirements and safeguards that will prove to be the foundation for a well-regulated consumption lounge," he said.

Lawmakers have pushed for the legalization of cannabis consumption lounges since recreational cannabis became legal in 2017. All previous attempts have failed.

California To Allow Indoor Gatherings As Virus Cases Plummet
By The Associated Press

California will allow indoor concerts, theater performances and other private gatherings starting April 15. The California Department of Public Health announced the changes on Friday as the rate of people testing positive for the coronavirus nears a record low. How many people can attend events will depend on the level of restrictions in place at each county. And capacity will increase if people can show proof they are fully vaccinated. The governor's office says the plan gives an incentive for more people to get vaccinated, but also prompts questions about health privacy and equity.

Nevada Regulators Tie Casino Capacity To Worker Vaccinations
By The Associated Press

Nevada regulators say casinos seeking the state’s OK to raise the current gambling floor occupancy limit above 50% must take steps to encourage their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The Gaming Control Board and Gaming Commission on Friday issued a memo with guidelines pushing casinos to provide paid time off for employees to be vaccinated, coordinate transportation to vaccine sites and make arrangements with pharmacy companies for vaccine distribution. The state on March 15 increased maximum gambling floor occupancy at 50% of capacity, up from 25%. Regulators have been authorized beginning May 1 to approve reopening plans with higher occupancy limits.

Gaming Caucus Pushes For Sports Betting Tax Repeal
By KUNR Staff

The Congressional Gaming Caucus - a group whose members represent states with legal gambling - is pushing a bill that would repeal the "handle tax" on sports bets.

As reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the measure would get rid of the 0.25% excise tax on legal sports bets, as well as a $50 annual tax on each employee working for a sportsbook.

The effort is led, in part, by caucus co-chair Dina Titus, Nevada's 1st District Congresswoman. The caucus argues the pandemic economic fallout is a reason to end the financial burden on gaming establishments.

Nevada paid more than $13.3 million in handle taxes in 2019. According to Titus, that's more than any other state.

Heat Waves Threatening Crops Faster Than Gradual Global Warming
By Stephanie Serrano, Mountain West News Bureau

The impact of heat waves on food crops could be 10 times greater than previously thought, and that means we could see a 10% loss in agricultural crops. That's according to Steve Miller, the lead researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder behind a recent study.

“Turning that into a dollar amount gets to be harder because we would have to have a realistic projection of overall agricultural production 80 years from now," Miller said.

To give an idea, Miller said France saw nearly a $3-4 billion economic loss after enduring a heat wave in 2003.

He added that getting information out to farmers about the changing climate is one way to contribute to prevention efforts.

“You know, water can help plants cope with heat stress, and if we can get better and more realistic forecasts to those farmers and help them understand the benefits and how best to apply water, that can help reduce some of the damage as well,” he said.

Miller said he's scared but also optimistic.

“I think there's lots of room for us in terms of adaptation and mitigation to make those scary numbers get smaller.”

The audio version of this story incorrectly stated losses in France of $400 billion. The actual losses were 3 to 4 billion. We have updated the copy above and regret the error.

Biden Plan Would Spend $16B To Clean Up Old Mines, Oil Wells
By The Associated Press

President Joe Biden’s plan to transform America’s infrastructure includes $16 billion to plug old oil and gas wells and clean up abandoned mines. Hundreds of thousands of “orphaned” oil and gas wells and abandoned coal and hardrock mines pose serious safety hazards, while causing ongoing environmental damage. The administration sees the longstanding problem as an opportunity to create jobs and remediate pollution, including greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Many of the old wells and mines are located in rural communities that have been hard-hit by the pandemic. Some sites have sat unattended for decades.

Las Vegas Athlete Competing For National Title
By Noah Glick

One of Nevada's own will be competing for the NCAA men's national basketball championship Monday night.

Freshman Julian Strawther is a guard for the Gonzaga Bulldogs, who face off against the Baylor Bears for the title. Strawther is from Las Vegas and went to Liberty High School, where he became the school's all-time leader in points and rebounds.

Stanford defeated Arizona 54-53 Sunday to capture the national women's title.

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