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A Look at How Legalization is Going in Nevada


Voters in Nevada made their state one of the four to approve adult-use legalization in November 2016. The efforts there may not have gotten the media attention that California (because of its size) or Massachusetts and Maine (first victories for recreational legalization on the East Coast) did, but events in the state continue to show just how critical the vote was. With Nevada’s growing population, it means more people every year will have access to cannabis without needing a specific reason or special permission.

And while Nevada continues to fly under the radar somewhat when it comes to news compared to other states, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With states like California making news due to shortages and weak supply and missing tax projections, and Maine being known for its relative lack of progress when it comes to getting adult-use sales off the ground at all, Nevada has made progress on many fronts. But that doesn’t mean all is well and that there is not still a lot more to accomplish.

“Nevada hit the ground running in 2017 with adult use and nothing has slowed down since,” Madisen Saglibene, the Executive Director for both the Las Vegas and Nevada chapters of NORML, told The Marijuana Times. “We rolled out the program extremely quickly, adopted amazing testing standards, and have great product availability overall. For consumers, there have been challenges though. The cost of product in Las Vegas is some of the highest in the nation and is then subject to a high tax rate also. For patients this has been a real problem, leading many back to the street market. Many great things have transpired since legalization, especially when it comes to tax revenue and business development, but Nevada consumers want to make sure that integrity is maintained by these cannabis businesses.”

Nevada is also somewhat unique in the U.S. due to the fact that tens of millions of tourists visit the state each year. When I asked Madisen about the impact legalization would have there over the next 5 years, she said it would likely be huge, especially after social use areas are allowed. “Casinos aren’t doing as well as they used to, nightclubs are also losing momentum, so I think Vegas is going to have to make that switch from an economic perspective,” she told us. “Unfortunately our laws don’t allow for any public consumption, so theoretically unless you live in Nevada, there’s nowhere you can legally smoke. This creates friction for tourists that need to be addressed. Social use lounges, other than those on Native American reservations, will not be permitted until at least 2021 per Nevada statute.”

Once people have the ability to travel to a place like Las Vegas, buy marijuana, and have multiple choices for where to consume said marijuana, there is no telling how many more tourists will pick Nevada as their destination. And if Nevada is still one of the very few places that offer this set of circumstances, they could have an advantage over other tourist spots for many years to come.