Recreational Cannabis Is Now Legal in Nevada, But Cops Look to Crack Down on Stoned Drivers
Nevada’s decision to legalize recreational marijuana is in full effect, but police officers in Las Vegas will continue to prosecute drivers under the influence of cannabis.
Published on January 3, 2017

Since Nevada became the seventh state to legalize the recreational use of cannabis back in November, the state government has been quick to implement the newly approved measure into practice. Starting January 1, recreational cannabis use and possession was made legal across the Silver State, and lawmakers have been pushing to bring retail sales into the state before 2018.   

As the bright and bustling city of Las Vegas plans to light up even more this new year, drivers should still beware of the Metropolitan Police Department’s plan to seek out drivers under the influence of cannabis. Metro police officer Sgt. Jon David has expressed concern about legalization leading to an increase of driving under the influence and plans on treating the crime in the same manner as a DUI involving alcohol. 

The Las Vegas police have hinted that they may use indicators such as scent or bloodshot eyes as evidence that a driver could be under the influence of marijuana. Traffic officers have also participated in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) courses, helping them detect the general signs of recent cannabis use. There’s also a chance that the Metro police department may make use of weed breathalyzers, which have started to pop up across the United States.  

Unlike with alcohol, law enforcement does not provide much guidance for how long users should wait before driving. One AAA study suggests waiting four to six hours after smoking or six to eight hours after ingestion before driving, but the fact that Nevada police officers have limited tools to test for cannabis could potentially lead to arrests based on visual suspicion alone. 

According to Nevada law, the limit for a urine test is 10 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) of marijuana or 15 ng/mL of marijuana metabolite. Blood test limits are 2 ng/mL of marijuana or 5 ng/mL of metabolite. While the line is clearly drawn by law, recreational cannabis users have little access to tools that can help them monitor their own levels before getting behind the wheel. 

Aside from the planned focus on cannabis DUIs, the recreational cannabis legislation in Nevada is still quite lenient. The law allows possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and 3.5 grams of concentrate, and adults are allowed to grow up to six plants in their household. Like most places with recreational legislation, public use is still punishable by fine.

All in all, the announcement by the Metro Police Department sounds like a warning to cannabis users excited about recreational legalization. While you can now get stoned and enjoy a stroll through Sin City, it’d be wise to stay away from the wheel while doing so. 

Tyler Koslow
Tyler Koslow is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with an intensive focus on technology, music, pop culture, and of course, cannabis and its impending legalization.
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