Las Vegas Sun

September 19, 2017

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Las Vegas marijuana laws: Your guide to buying and using weed

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Steve Marcus

Marijuana is displayed at the Reef Dispensary during a Nevada Dispensary Association news conference on legal recreational marijuana sales Thursday, June 29, 2017.

Nevada is one of eight states allowing recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and over, and on Saturday will become the first of four states that legalized recreational sales in last November’s election to open its recreational dispensaries for business. Nevada adults will be able to purchase 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.

Many of the 60 operating medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada will test out the recreational program with an “early start” license that allows those dispensaries exclusive sales of recreational weed through Jan. 1, in addition to their medical marijuana sales.

In January, the Sun brought answers to readers’ questions about recreational marijuana. Since then, some legislative measures have been passed to update and develop framework for the new industry for the next two years and beyond. Here’s an updated version on the industry’s newest set of laws:

What does “early start” mean?

Nevada’s early start program allows the state’s medical marijuana facilities a trial period to begin growing and selling the plant for recreational use six months before the voter-approved Ballot Question 2 called for recreational sales to start on Jan. 1. The program is modeled after a similar early start program implemented two years ago in Oregon. The six-month trial period in Nevada is designed to help dispensary owners work out the kinks before Jan. 1, and get a head start in raising an estimated $60-$70 million in tax revenue projected by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval for the state’s rainy day fund.

How can I buy recreational marijuana?

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 Nevada dispensaries don’t yet have banking or accept credit cards.

How will I know which dispensaries are selling recreational marijuana?

Individual dispensaries are tasked with promoting themselves as recreational marijuana sellers, said Andrew Jolley, president of the Nevada Dispensary Association. “We want our customers to know it’s finally here,” said Jolley, who owns two dispensaries in the Las Vegas Valley. While all of the state’s 60 medical marijuana dispensaries received early start licenses from the Nevada Department of Taxation for recreational weed, local laws in Henderson, Sparks and Carson City prohibit the dispensaries in those jurisdictions from selling recreational marijuana on July 1.

Can I still buy medical marijuana?

State officials and marijuana vendors are encouraging medical marijuana card holders to continue making medical purchases. Dispensary owners have estimated that recreational sales will multiply the demand for products, but prices could be as much as 20-percent lower for medical cardholders than recreational buyers for the exact same products. The annual cost of a medical card is also down from $75 to $50 and doctors can issue a recommendation note, a required part of the medical card application process, for two years instead of just one. That means patients won’t have to renew their card annually anymore.

How can I tell the difference between medical and recreational marijuana products at the dispensaries?

There is no difference, except at the point of sale. Once you’re done browsing and selecting your weed products at a dispensary, you can either pay full price as a recreational buyer or show the cashier your medical card for an estimated discount of 10 to 20 percent.

Other recreational weed-legal states, like Colorado, have separate inventories for recreational and medical marijuana, and those products are marked in the stores. But Nevada’s weed industry opted for the more streamlined marijuana buying and growing process, arguing it makes more logistical sense. “We wanted to avoid unnecessary and wasteful spending, and this makes life easier for the dispensaries,” said Nevada state Sen. Tick Segerblom, a longtime advocate of Nevada’s recreational marijuana program. “The easier it is for them to produce and sell, the more customers they can serve and the more tax revenue we bring in.”

Is the quality of recreational marijuana different than medical?

Unlike recreational pot-legal states Washington and Colorado, recreational marijuana products in Nevada will be subject to the same testing standards as the state’s medical industry. That includes testing for pesticides, heavy metals and mycotoxins, mold, strength of cannabinoids and THC.

Has the federal government’s attitude on marijuana changed?

Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, just like cocaine, heroine and methamphetamines. That has been reinforced in 2017 by leaders in President Donald Trump’s administration, who earlier this year threatened to crack down on marijuana in the 44 U.S. states and territories where some form of sales are legal. But those plans were essentially quashed in May when Congress decided not to allocate any money to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ initiative to go after the marijuana states.

Marijuana is still illegal to bring on a plane, as airspace within the U.S. is considered federal territory. But while weed is “not a threat to aviation security,” TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said it is not a priority to search agents, and legal quantities of the plant may still pass through scanners undetected. Weed can’t be shipped via the U.S. Postal Service, and representatives from both UPS and FedEx also said their companies also will refuse to knowingly ship marijuana in an attempt to honor federal law.

Nevada Dispensary Association on Recreational Sales

Marijuana is displayed at the Reef Dispensary during a Nevada Dispensary Association news conference on legal recreational marijuana sales Thursday, June 29, 2017. Launch slideshow »

Can I drive weed into Nevada from other states?

It’s not legal to drive marijuana from any other states into Nevada. But unless you’re pulled over at the border, law enforcement officers can’t ask where you you purchased the marijuana, nor would you likely be challenged by police, unless you have have more than the legal amount in your possession. And it’s illegal to bring marijuana back to your home state after a weekend of visiting Las Vegas.

Can I smoke marijuana and still get a concealed carry weapon permit?

Federal law prevents users of federally illegal drugs from obtaining a concealed weapon permit, but because recreational sales are not tracked there’s nothing to stop you from smoking recreational marijuana and getting a concealed weapons permit. Having a medical marijuana card in Nevada is different, however, because your name is entered into a state registry. While your information won’t come up on a background check, medical marijuana patients are specifically banned in Metro Police’s application for a concealed carry weapon.

Can I be fired for using marijuana?

That’s still up to your employer. By federal law, employers can still fire employees for using marijuana, even medically. A bill proposed by Segerblom aimed to change that and passed through the Nevada Legislature, but it was vetoed by Sandoval.

Could recreational marijuana in Las Vegas be gone soon?

There’s always a chance the federal government intervenes, but that’s unlikely. And if Sandoval and state legislators have their way, recreational marijuana is here to stay. Sandoval, who opposed the recreational marijuana ballot question last November, told the Sun in a March interview he wants the booming Las Vegas’ industry to be a model for other cities across the U.S. “We’re trying to learn lessons from the mistakes of other states, like Colorado, Oregon and Washington,” Sandoval said. “Ideally, this is going to be a system that people are going to mimic as time goes forward.”

Can I drive with marijuana in my car?

Yes, you can drive with marijuana in the car as long as you’re not using it, driving under the influence or carrying more than the legal amount. Medical cardholders can legally possess up to two and a half ounces of marijuana flower or the equivalent of concentrates.

Can I consume in edibles in public?

No. The same regulations apply for marijuana edibles as smoking the plant.

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

Assembly Bill 135, passed during this year’s legislative session, says police can no longer administer a urine test for those suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana. But current law mandates that Nevada drivers can’t have marijuana metabolites — active or inactive — present in their blood when administering a blood test. Because there’s no way to measure marijuana levels with a breathalyzer, police will administer field sobriety tests and make a judgment call, Metro Police Officer Larry Hadfield said. “If there’s any doubt you’re impaired, whether it be marijuana, alcohol, legal prescription drugs or illegal drugs, then don’t drive,” Hadfield said.

When can I open a medical marijuana dispensary?

For the first 18 months after recreational dispensaries open permanently Jan. 1 only those currently with a medical marijuana license have the exclusive rights to owning and operating them. After that, the general public will have their shot, similar to liquor stores. But that date, July 1, 2019, is after the 2019 Nevada Legislature, meaning most of the qualifications for who can open dispensaries will be hammered out by lawmakers in two years.

What happened to the “weed lounge” bill?

Segerblom’s bill, which would have allowed businesses to apply for permits to allow marijuana use in their facilities, died two weeks before the end of the legislative session after missing a deadline for approval. But the Nevada senator said pot lounges are still possible if cities and counties across the state write local ordinances allowing them. Public places such as parks, campgrounds and national forests will be off-limits. Same for bars, coffee houses, and even the marijuana store where the product is purchased. Elected officials from Clark County and Las Vegas said the possibility of local ordinances allowing cannabis lounges at private businesses within their respective jurisdictions were “unlikely.” “It’s not something we would look at, I don’t think, until the legislature next meets and takes a stand on that,” Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said.

Can I smoke in my hotel room?

Casinos, governed by the Nevada Gaming Control Board and Gaming Control Commission, are firmly against marijuana use in their facilities, citing federal law. That includes your hotel room on the Strip.

How much marijuana can I grow at home?

None, unless you’re living outside of a 25-mile range of the nearest marijuana dispensary, which essentially rules out residents of the Las Vegas Valley. 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 plants per household.

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