Nevada and Cannabis, First Recreational Sales

Nevada was among the first states to legalize medical cannabis in 1998 when voters approved Question 9 with a 59% majority vote. Under Question 9, Nevada citizens are allowed to possess up to two and a half ounces of cannabis and can grow up to twelve plants in their homes. Despite these relatively lenient medical cannabis laws, as of July 2016, there were only approximately 20,000 medical patients in the state. In 2002 Question 9 was proposed which would legalize recreational cannabis but failed in the polls. Legalizing cannabis was on the ballot yet again in 2006 under the title ‘Nevada Regulation of Marijuana Initiative, however, it only received 44% of the vote. It wasn’t until Question 2 (which aimed to legalize recreational cannabis) was proposed in 2016 that the state finally passed legislation to legalize cannabis. On election day, officially titled ‘Initiative to Regulate and tax marijuana’ passed with a 54%-46% vote.


While the official date of recreational cannabis sales in Nevada was set for January 1, 2018. However, authorities agreed to adopt regulations which allowed the substance to be sold sooner, setting the new date for July 1, 2017. As of the first of July, adults over the age of 21 can legally possess an ounce of cannabis. Nevada became the fastest to implement its recreational law allowing legal cannabis sales than any other state to date. People in Nevada can now buy up to one ounce of dried cannabis at any recreational dispensary. Alternatively, up to 1/8th of cannabis concentrate can be purchased. However, whether you’re buying herb or concentrate, a sizeable 15% excise tax will be added to your purchase. Possessing more than an ounce of cannabis will get you a misdemeanor with a $600 max fine, and growing any amount of plants in the state remains illegal.

While you can’t grow the herb yourself, many medical dispensaries in the state have acquired a dual license, meaning they can sell cannabis to either medical patients or recreational users. Recreational dispensary licensing is determined based on county size, Clark County getting 80, Washoe County getting 20, Carson County getting 4, and a mere 2 dispensaries being allocated to the remaining 14 counties. Consuming cannabis in public is still illegal, and can land you with a fine of up to $1000 and six months in jail if caught. While some hotels do allow tobacco smoke, the large majority of them won’t allow cannabis due to concerns with the federal law.

One of the reasons why Nevada authorities may have been so gung-ho about allowing cannabis to be sold at an earlier date is undoubtedly the tax revenue. With approximately 40 million people visiting Las Vegas each year, recreational sales are bound to be a massive market for the state. In 2016, Colorado, for example, over 200 million dollars in tax revenue was generated via recreational cannabis sales. And in 2015, Colorado, over 18,000 jobs relating to the cannabis industry were created. Cannabis in Nevada is bound to see both the creation of new jobs, as well as a sizeable amount of tax revenue.

Currently there is a total of 44 licensed dispensaries in the state, however, more dispensaries will undoubtedly open the legal recreational market in Nevada grows.

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