Atlantic City Hotel Begins Construction For a Weed Smoking Lounge in Its Casino
The Claridge Hotel, which has housed MLK Jr. and Marilyn Monroe, plans to go green.
Published on March 1, 2023

The East Coast’s most storied strip of seaside casinos is entering its green phase. Atlantic City’s Claridge Hotel has announced that it will be giving up some floor space previously dedicated to gaming to install a cannabis dispensary, complete with a consumption lounge for vacationers with toking needs.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported this week that the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority has rubber-stamped plans for a 10,000-square-foot, two-story space to be dubbed the High Rollers Dispensary. The plan still needs approval from the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission.

Said cannabis business would be housed within the 24-story Claridge Hotel, which, according to its website was constructed back in 1930 by the same architect who designed the Pentagon and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The building is sometimes referred to as the “Skyscraper By the Sea” due to its Manhattan-like altitude, and has hosted everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Martin Luther King Jr. during its time on the boardwalk.

Among the special regulations for the property handed down by the Development Authority is a requirement for on-site security guards present before the dispensary opens it doors, in order to provide any necessary crowd control for enthusiastic early bird crowds.

Atlantic City’s first cannabis medical dispensary with a consumption lounge was approved by the Development Authority back in November. The regulatory agency has already given the go-ahead to one lounge-less medical dispensary on the strip. City officials have nixed plans for recreational cannabis sales on the iconic boardwalk.

Weed lounges are serving as the focus for much of the cannabis industry at the moment, particularly marijuana businesses that are located in places frequented by tourists. After all, what’s the point of legalization if you still don’t have any place to consume your reefer comfortably and safely?

Just like jurisdictions throughout the country to varying degrees, Las Vegas has struggled to get its first consumption lounges off the ground due to complex licensing issues. Happily in December, commissioners in the surrounding Clark County OK’d regulations for such businesses.

Policymakers in the City of Las Vegas continue to deliberate over the rules for cannabis lounges in the city itself—though this week, a key meeting on Wednesday could accelerate the process. The current draft they’re debating would not allow cannabis lounges within 1000 feet of each other—a limitation that you can imagine weed entrepreneurs are hoping will be struck from the final draft.

“We don't have that for restaurants, bars, casinos,” said a statement for local business group Chamber of Cannabis. “So why would we discriminate against cannabis venues?”

In January, a contender to be the first to welcome on-site stoners rose to the fore: The new owners of the $11.9 million Artisan Hotel announced that they were renovating the property in the hopes of opening Las Vegas's first weed friendly hotel. The $15 million remodel is planned to leave the hotel's fourth floor equipped for discerning cannabis consumers.

Follow Caitlin on Instagram, and catch her Spanish-language podcast Crónica on Spotify and Mixcloud.

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Caitlin Donohue
Caitlin Donohue is a Bay Area-raised, Mexico City-based cannabis writer and author of She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics and the World. Her weekly show Crónica on Radio Nopal explores Mexican marijuana culture and politics in the prohibition era. Follow Caitlin on IG @byrdwatch.
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