While it is perfectly acceptable for people to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes in Las Vegas casinos, it will likely be a long time before gambling patrons are able to enjoy the fruits of Nevada’s newly legal cannabis market while losing their life savings at the roulette wheel.
Although Nevada voters recently approved a measure (Question 2) that makes marijuana legal in a manner similar to alcohol, members of the Nevada Gaming Commission and Nevada Gaming Control Board have refused to allow pot smoking in casinos. The decision stems mostly from the federal government’s ban on the substance, as well as concerns that President-elect Donald Trump’s selection for U.S. Attorney General, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, will intervene in gambling relations if marijuana in the mix.
“Were we to take a position that would allow a federal law to be broken and not act on it, that has a great chance of inviting federal intervention,” Commissioner Randolph Townsend said during a hearing last week.
This is not the first time the Gaming Control Board has addressed the issue of legal weed. Two years ago, when Nevada legalized the herb for medical use, the commission fired off a letter to the state’s gaming industry prohibiting them from investing in the cannabis trade. The memo stated that the Gaming Control Board “does not believe any investment or any other involvement in a medical marijuana facility or establishment by a person who has received a gaming approval or has applied for a gaming approval is consistent with the effective regulation of gaming."
But when it comes to recreational marijuana, the general consensus of the Commission seems to be that, while they want to remain respectful of the people's decision to legalize, marijuana violates federal law and therefore “it’s not suitable” in gaming areas.
The passing of Question 2 eliminates the criminal penalties for those caught in possession of up to an ounce of marijuana—however, public consumption is still prohibited and punishable with a fine. It also opens up the creation of a retail cannabis market that will allow adults to purchase weed in pot shops all across Nevada in the same way many people do with respect to beer, wine and hard liquor. For some, the new law even provides the freedom to cultivate up to six plants at home for personal use.
Unfortunately, pot consumption will remain among the verboten when it comes to the state’s casinos – at least until the federal government finally gives up its prohibitionary stance on cannabis and allows the substance to be treated under the same conditions as alcohol and tobacco. At that point, the commission may be inclined to reconsider its position.