Cannabis in Nevada

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2016 Legalization results by county. Counties with a majority of "yes" votes in green and counties with a majority of "no" votes in red.

Cannabis in Nevada became legal for recreational use effective January 1, 2017, having been legalized by ballot initiative in 2016. Medical marijuana use was legalized by ballot initiative in 2000, and has been available to licensed individuals in the state since shortly after that date. Nevada also licenses growers and distributors, and citizens of Nevada are banned from growing their own cannabis unless they live more than 25 miles from a licensed dispensary.

Prohibition (1923)[edit]

Nevada first banned cannabis in 1923, during a nationwide trend of states limiting the drug between 1911-1933.[1]


Medical use[edit]

Nevada Medical Marijuana Act (1998, 2000)[edit]

In 1998, Nevada voters approved the Nevada Medical Marijuana Act (Question 9) with 59% of the vote.[2] It was approved again in 2000 with 65% of the vote.[3] Because the initiative was a constitutional amendment it required approval in consecutive elections in order to become law.[4]

Medical use was officially legalized with the June 2001 passage of Assembly Bill 453, which took effect on October 1.[5]

Recreational use[edit]

Defelonization (2001)[edit]

Assembly Bill 453 – which legalized medical use of cannabis in Nevada – also contained a provision to make possession of up to one ounce a fine-only misdemeanor for first and second-time offenders. No criminal record would be imposed until a third offense.[5]

Prior to the passage of AB 453, Nevada was the only state in the U.S. for which possessing any amount of cannabis was a felony offense.[5]

Failed Legalization of Marijuana Amendment (2002)[edit]

In 2002, the Decriminalization of Marijuana Amendment (Question 9) was put on the ballot as a proposal to legalize and regulate the recreational use of cannabis in Nevada – but it was soundly defeated by a 39–61 margin.[6][7] Drug czar John P. Walters traveled to Nevada twice to campaign against the initiative.[8]

Failed Regulation of Marijuana Initiative (2006)[edit]

In 2006, the Regulation of Marijuana Initiative (Question 7) was voted on by Nevada citizens.[9] It unsuccessfully sought to amend the Nevada Revised Statutes to allow for up to one ounce of marijuana to be purchased by individuals 21 years of age or older in a regulated, controlled, and state-taxed system.[9] The measure was defeated 56% against and 44% for.[10]

Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana (2016)[edit]

A bag of cannabis purchased in Las Vegas

In 2016, the Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana (Question 2) was put before Nevada voters.[11] The measure, which appeared on the November 8, 2016 ballot, sought to legalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults over the age of 21.[12][13] The initiative did not include provisions for regulation beyond taxation, such as licensing retailers.[14]

Question 2 was opposed by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who donated $3.35 million to the campaign to defeat the initiative.[15] Adelson also purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal in December 2015, after which the editorial board reversed its earlier endorsement of the initiative.[16] Prior to the flip-flop, the Review-Journal supported legalization as far back as 2002 when it endorsed Question 9.[16]

Question 2 was approved on November 8 by a 54–46 margin.[17] Possession and consumption by adults became legal on January 1, 2017,[18][19] and on July 1 sales of recreational cannabis began.[20]


Medical legalization[edit]

Delays and permit process (2002-2013)[edit]

Following the establishment of NRS 453, broad language in the statute prevented the erection of a state licensure program for commercial businesses.[21] Personal cultivation of marijuana for private medicinal use was the only available means of consumption, with a maximum of 12 plants allowed[citation needed] Following the passage of NRS 453, medical marijuana advocates and commercial business owners criticized the Nevada's slow handling of the legislative and regulatory process.[22] One 42 year-old Las Vegas resident even filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that Nevada's medical marijuana registration program was unconstitutional for its excessive impedances and delays.[23]

First commercial operations (2013-2016)[edit]

It was not until June 12, 2013 when Senate Bill 374 was passed and signed into law by Governor Brian Sandoval that commercial distribution was made possible.[24] The process, however, continued to take time. A contributing factor to the state's slow commercial license approval process was the limited availability of licenses and a lengthy scoring and ranking system.[25] The first Provisional certificates for legal commercial medical marijuana operations were limited to 372 businesses within the state: 182 for cultivation, 118 for production, 55 for dispensaries and 17 for independent testing laboratories.[26] 12 licenses were initially awarded to dispensaries,[27] sparking "fierce competition" among applicants.[27] Journalist Bruce Barcott of Leafly posited that the thorough vetting process created a favorable environment to patients of the dispensaries, as "applicants were graded in a host of categories — security, financing, environmental plan, etc. — and the most robust business plans won the coveted licenses. For patients, that means the dispensaries are well financed, beautifully designed, and expertly managed."[27]

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services states that there were 9,542 cardholding participating patients as of July 2015. 6716 of these patients were located within Clark County.[28] As of February 3, 2016, there are 5 laboratories, 19 cultivation facilities, 8 production facilities and 15 licensed dispensaries operating in Clark County. Sales figures as of that time were not available, but one dispensary assistant manager estimates that they receive 50 to 70 patients a day on average, roughly 60% of which are tourists.[29] At the time, there were about "11,000 medical-card holders" living in southern Nevada.[27]

Legal possession amounts[edit]

State law currently allows for the possession of 2.5 ounces of consumable marijuana in any 14-day period (NRS 453A.160). Twelve marijuana plants are permitted, irrespective of their maturity (NAC 453A.080). Consumable products are permitted with an equivalent content of psychoactive compounds such as THC (NRS 453A.112). The state of Nevada conducted a public workshop on February 4, 2016 in order to solidify proposed changes to NRS 453 defining serving sizes for edible products containing THC as well as clarifying language within the statute.[citation needed]

Requirements for legal patient use[edit]

The following are approved conditions for legal medical use of marijuana or marijuana products:[30]

The State of Nevada maintains strict control over the use of medical marijuana in certain situations.[31] Consumption in a public place, at a detention or correctional facility or during delivery of marijuana to another person is illegal.[32] Being under the influence of marijuana while driving is illegal. The state maintains a permissible limit of 10 nanograms of THC per milliliter of urine and 2 nanograms per milliliter of blood when operating motor vehicles. Operating an aircraft while under the influence is illegal. Possession of a firearm, licensed or unlicensed, while under the influence is illegal.

Additionally, performing certain recreational activities while under the influence of marijuana is illegal. (For instance, operating a water ski, surfboard, windsail or similar device.)[33]

Application process for an MMR card[edit]

The process of obtaining a permit to consume medical marijuana in Nevada begins with the applicant paying the $25.00 application fee for their application packet. Upon receiving the packet, they must satisfy the needed documentation and return the packet to the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health. Needed materials include an attending physician's statement from a Nevada board-certified physician in good standing, a legal waiver and proof of Nevada residency.

Applicants mail the application along with a $75 registration fee. The application is verified for completeness, and the applicant undergoes a background check for drug-related criminal history. If no felony charges for distribution or trafficking of controlled substances, the applicant will be approved for their MMR card subject to further approval by the Division. An approval letter is sent, which the patient may use for 14 days as a viable permit until their photo ID MMR card is received in the mail.

Registry cards must be renewed yearly.[34] Anyone leaving the registry program must surrender their card to the state within 7 days.

Reciprocity for other programs[edit]

Nevada is a state which recognizes reciprocity for out-of-state marijuana card holders.[35] For example, the state of Nevada recognizes MMR and MMJ cardholders from other states with regulated medical marijuana programs, such as Colorado and Washington.[citation needed] According to Leafly, permissive practices and a strong tourism industry in Las Vegas has made the city a viable test case for how reciprocity policies affect income for the medical marijuana and tourism industries.[35] Some dispensaries estimate that around half of their business comes from out-of-state cardholders.[27]

Dispensaries in Las Vegas[edit]

The first dispensary to begin operations within Las Vegas, Nevada was Euphoria Wellness,[36] which opened to patients on August 24, 2015.[37] Since then, seven other dispensaries have opened within Las Vegas city limits.


Driving a vehicle under the influence of cannabis (even for approved medical use) is illegal and depending on the kind of offence one will be penalized. The offender will be penalized with $400 fine, 2 days in jail, 48 – 96 hours of community service to $5000 fine and 1 – 6 years in prison depending on the first, second and third offence.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Richard Davenport-Hines (November 29, 2012). The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Social History of Drugs. Orion Publishing Group. pp. 126–. ISBN 978-1-78022-542-5.
  2. ^ "Nevada Medical Marijuana Act, Question 9 (1998)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  3. ^ "Nevada Medical Marijuana Act, Question 9 (2000)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  4. ^ "Medical Marijuana Initiatives Pass In Colorado and Nevada; Californians Pass Initiative To Keep Non-Violent Drug Offenders Out Of Jail". NORML. November 9, 2000. Retrieved June 2, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c "Nevada Defelonizes Pot Possession -- State Eliminates Jail, Criminal Record for Minor Offenders; Legalizes Medical Marijuana for Seriously Ill". NORML. June 7, 2001. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  6. ^ Rudolph Joseph Gerber (2004). Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 117–. ISBN 978-0-275-97448-0.
  7. ^ "Nevada Decriminalization of Marijuana Amendment, Question 9 (2002)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  8. ^ "Drug czar stumps against Nevada's marijuana question". Las Vegas Sun. October 10, 2002. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  9. ^ a b "REGULATION OF MARIJUANA INITIATIVE". Archived from the original on October 30, 2006.
  10. ^ "Nevada Marijuana Initiative, Question 7 (2006)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  11. ^ Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana, Nevada Secretary of State, April 23, 2014, archived from the original on August 17, 2016, retrieved May 23, 2016
  12. ^ "Expert to speak on marijuana legalization in Fernley", Reno Gazette-Journal, May 20, 2016
  13. ^ Ken Ritter (March 16, 2015), Nevada marijuana legalization gets official OK for 2016 ballot, Associated Press – via The Cannabist
  14. ^ Joe Schoenmann (April 15, 2016), After November, What's Next For Recreational Marijuana In Nevada?, Nevada Public Radio/KNPR
  15. ^ Savchuk, Katia (November 9, 2016). "Billionaire Sean Parker Wins, Sheldon Adelson Loses On Marijuana Ballot Measures". Forbes. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  16. ^ a b Sullum, Jacob (June 13, 2016). "The Anti-Pot Editorial That Cost $140 Million". Reason. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  17. ^ Law & Order (November 9, 2016). "Several states just legalized recreational marijuana". Business Insider. Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  18. ^ Question 2 Passed in Nevada. Now what?, Henderson, Nevada: Connor & Connor PLLC, November 11, 2016
  19. ^ Colton Lochhead (November 9, 2016), "What you should know about Nevada's new marijuana law", Las Vegas Review-Journal
  20. ^ Robinson, Melia (July 1, 2017). "You can now buy legal marijuana in Nevada". Business Insider. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  21. ^ "First medical marijuana sales in Nevada".
  22. ^ "Euphoria Wellness Frustrated by Delays".
  23. ^ "Judge rules Nevada's medical marijuana registration program is constitutional".
  24. ^ "Nevada SB374 | 2013 | 77th Legislature". LegiScan. Retrieved March 20, 2020.
  25. ^ "The Slow Roll of Medical Marijuana". Archived from the original on December 18, 2018. Retrieved May 17, 2019.
  27. ^ a b c d e Barcott, Bruce (January 31, 2016). "Reciprocity, Baby: Leafly's Medical Cannabis Guide to Las Vegas". Leafly. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  28. ^ "Division of Public and Behavioral Health Medical Marijuana Program" (PDF).
  29. ^ "Medical Marijuana Facilities Fill Up During Holidays".
  30. ^ "Nevada Medical Marijuana Law".
  31. ^ "State of Nevada Medical Marijuana Legal Info" (PDF).
  32. ^ "Medical Marijuana FAQ". Essence Cannabis Dispensary. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
  33. ^ "PossessionAndConsumption". Retrieved December 25, 2018.
  34. ^ "Medical Marijuana Program Facts" (PDF).
  35. ^ a b "Leafly's Medical Cannabis Guide to Las Vegas".
  36. ^ "Euphoria Wellness". Archived from the original on May 31, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2019.
  37. ^ "First Las Vegas-area marijuana dispensary to open".
  38. ^ steven (May 12, 2016). "What Should You Know About DUI and Medical Marijuana in Nevada?". Essence Cannabis Dispensary. Retrieved January 2, 2019.

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