Las Vegas Sun

February 23, 2017

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Some answers to your questions on recreational marijuana in Nevada

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Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Sun

Promotional stickers are displayed by a vendor during the 5th Annual Marijuana Business Conference & Expo at the Rio Hotel and Casino, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016.

Nevada is one of eight states allowing recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and over. Starting Sunday, adults could buy up to 1 ounce of marijuana flower or up to one-eighth of an ounce of marijuana concentrates — like shatter, wax and carbon dioxide oil — per visit to legal dispensaries.

The problem? While recreational marijuana now is legal, dispensaries selling the plant to nonmedical marijuana buyers won’t open until June, at the very earliest.

The 2017 Nevada Legislature will determine much of recreational marijuana’s future. State Sen. Tick Segerblom, who helped establish medical marijuana facilities in the 2013 session, hopes to have guidelines for recreational facilities passed into law by June.

“Most people think it’ll be legal to purchase on Sunday, but unfortunately that’s not the case,” Segerblom said.

Readers have contacted the Sun with many questions about recreational marijuana. Here are some answers:

Can I go to other states to buy marijuana and bring it back to Nevada?

It’s illegal to cross into the Nevada state line from another state with marijuana you bought from that state, Segerblom said. But once you’re in Nevada, police can’t ask where you purchased the marijuana, nor would you likely be challenged by police, given you don’t have more than the legal amount in your possession.

Can I bring marijuana on an airplane?

Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, just like cocaine, heroine and methamphetamines. But the Transportation Security Administration is not actively searching airline passengers for marijuana because the plant is “not a threat to aviation security,” TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said. “At the end of the day, it has no impact on our operations. If we find it, we’ll let police know. But it’s not something we’re in the business of searching for and not something we’re actively searching for.”

Melendez said the TSA will alert local law enforcement if they find a passenger with marijuana in their possession as that person passes through security scanners. But legal quantities of the plant theoretically will pass through security undetected in both carry-on and checked baggage, he said.

How can I buy marijuana once the recreational dispensaries open?

It’s as simple as walking into a dispensary, choosing what you want, showing your ID and paying for it, just like buying alcohol at a liquor store. But as long as the plant is federally illegal, you’ll need to bring cash, as dispensaries don’t accept credit cards.

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Nevada State Senator Tick Segerblom participates in a Q & A panel during the 5th Annual Marijuana Business Conference & Expo at the Rio Hotel and Casino, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016.

Where will the open dispensaries be located?

It depends on the size of the county. In Clark County, up to 80 recreational licenses — including for dispensaries, cultivation and production facilities — will be allowed for 18 months after permits are distributed by the state. Washoe County, with between 100,000 and 700,000 residents, will have up to 20 recreational marijuana facility licenses, while smaller counties with population less than 55,000 will be allowed up to two licenses.

Similar to Nevada’s medical marijuana program, individual counties also will have the right to vote against allowing medical marijuana dispensaries. Twelve of Nevada’s 16 counties currently ban medical marijuana establishments. But that doesn’t stop residents of those counties from being legally allowed to use marijuana within the county. As long as a person is on their own private property or on rented property where its use is permitted by the owner, they can use marijuana anywhere in Nevada.

Who will own the dispensaries? Can I open one?

For the first 18 months after recreational dispensaries are allowed to open, only those currently with a medical marijuana license can own and operate them. After that, the general public will have their shot, similar to liquor stores.

Qualifications for members of the general public will be determined in the upcoming Legislature. But with little framework for such licenses outlined in Ballot Question 2, Segerblom and fellow State Sen. Patricia Farley said figuring out how to issue state certifications, and who will get them, is one of their biggest concerns.

“It’s going to be tough to figure out how to implement it because the wording was so vague,” Segerblom said.

The earliest someone not currently holding a medical marijuana license could open a store would be Jan. 1, 2019, if the state allows current medical marijuana facilities to start their recreational operations in June 2017. If that process is delayed until Jan. 1, 2018, state medical facilities won’t open until June 2019.

If I buy marijuana from a street dealer, can I still use it?

It’s illegal to sell marijuana anywhere other than a licensed marijuana dispensary and illegal to buy anywhere other than a licensed marijuana dispensary. But once it’s in your possession, police can’t track you to that dealer.

Can I buy from multiple dispensaries on the same day?

Yes, as long as you buy within the legal limit of 1 ounce per day. Nevada’s medical marijuana industry uses a registry that tracks patients’ purchases at the time of sale, making dispensary hopping possible, as long as a buyer’s marijuana flower purchases equate to under 1 ounce and concentrates equate to under one-eighth of an ounce.

Such a registry will be up for debate by the Legislature. But if Segerblom has his way, the state won’t have one. That essentially leaves the door open for buyers to jump undetected from dispensary to dispensary and buy more than the legal limit, if they so desire.

“The whole point of this is not to have your name in any database for the state to track,” he said. “We don’t want buyers of legal adult-use cannabis to be up for audit or investigation.”

Where can I go to smoke marijuana?

Users can ingest the plant only at their private residences. All public places — such as parks, campgrounds and national forests — will be off-limits, as will bars, coffee houses, casino-hotels and even the marijuana store where the product is purchased.

Segerblom said such a dynamic creates a problem for more than 45 million tourists who visit Las Vegas each year. With casinos and hotels saying no to marijuana, he hopes such laws will be lightly enforced. He said that while marijuana has always been illegal in popular tourist lodging venues, it hasn’t stopped tourists from using the drug in their hotel rooms, on the Strip and around the valley.

What if I’m renting from someone, or leasing an apartment?

If you don’t own the property you’re living on, you’ll need to check with your rental agency or landlord to make sure they approve of your marijuana use before lighting up.

Can I grow marijuana at home?

Not unless you’re living outside of a 25-mile range of the nearest marijuana dispensary, which for residents of the Las Vegas Valley essentially means no. In rural Nevada, where dispensaries are fewer and farther between, residents can grow up to six marijuana plants per person, or no more than 12 per household.

If I can’t smoke in a bar or casino, can I at least bring edibles?

It’s not technically legal. But, in practice, a person could consume edibles in a bathroom stall where nobody else could see them.

Can I drive after using a cannabis product?

It’s similar to alcohol in that police can pull you over if they suspect you’re impaired.

What’s the legal limit for driving, and how will authorities test me for marijuana?

By current law, a Nevada driver can’t have marijuana metabolites — active or inactive — present in their blood when tested. But if police have no reason to believe a marijuana user is too impaired to drive, they won’t go as far as arresting and taking someone in for a blood test. Unlike with alcohol, there’s no way to measure marijuana levels with a breathalyzer, so police will administer field sobriety tests and make a judgment call. Metro Police spokesman Officer Larry Hadfield said he expects the force to hand out “tons” of DUIs as Nevadans adjust to recreational marijuana laws and figure out how much they can tolerate.

“Just be smart,” Hadfield said. “If you smoke and drive, if you smoke in the car, you’re going to be in trouble.”

Could the federal government come in and shut Nevada’s marijuana program down?

Yes. But it’s unlikely. Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s office will be in charge of fending off any potential federal lawsuits. Laxalt’s office declined response to requests for comment, arguing they don’t comment on “hypothetical questions or scenarios.” But Farley said she expects the attorney general’s office to “respect and stand for the will of Nevada voters.”

If I’m a medical patient, can I share my marijuana with other adults who want to use it recreationally?

Nevada patients risk losing their medical marijuana cards if caught giving or selling their medical weed to anyone else. But once the marijuana is in possession of a nonmedical-card holding recipient, according to Ballot Question 2, it’s legal for that person to possess and use it.

Can I send marijuana in the mail?

Marijuana is federally illegal, making it unlawful to mail it with the U.S. Postal Service. Representatives from both UPS and FedEx also said their companies also will refuse to knowingly ship marijuana in an attempt to honor federal law.

“FedEx strictly prohibits such shipments in our national network,” company spokeswoman Sharon Young said. “Our terms and conditions for shipping are broadly applied to ensure full compliance with federal regulations.”

Can I drive with marijuana in my car?

Yes, as long as you’re not using it, driving under the influence or carrying more than the legal amount of 1 ounce of marijuana flower or one-eighth of an ounce of marijuana concentrates.

Will my employer let me use marijuana?

That’s up to your boss. By federal law, employers can still fire employees for using marijuana. And some marijuana users can still test positive over a month after using the plant, so you might want to check with your boss.

How do I get a job in the marijuana industry?

Check with the dispensaries, as many post job listings on their websites. Craigslist and marijuana-specific job websites, like 420careers.com and cannajobs.com, offer platforms for marijuana employers and prospective employees to connect. But not just anyone can find work in Nevada’s marijuana industry. Cannabis employers in Nevada are required to background check prospective employees. Those with criminal records won’t be hired, Segerblom said.

Editor’s note: Brian Greenspun, the CEO, publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun, has an ownership interest in Essence Cannabis Dispensary.

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