Marijuana activists are already planning the 2016 campaign to regulate and legalize the sale of recreational pot in Nevada, home to Las Vegas, one of the world’s biggest tourism destinations.
But some tourists won’t have to wait that long to legally buy weed in Las Vegas thanks to the most liberal reciprocity law in the U.S.
Medical marijuana cardholders throughout the U.S. will be able to purchase pot in Nevada starting in 2015. All they’ll have to do is show their medical marijuana license, show a government ID proving they’re 21 or older and sign an affidavit — and they’ll have access to that shop (but no others) for their stay in Nevada.
Will this liberal medical reciprocity act as a soft lead-in to recreational measures in Nevada? And will Nevada pass full-on recreational legalization in 2016?
“Of course it will,” said Jill Lamoureux, who handles government relations at Colorado-based pot testing facility CannLabs, which recently announced its future presence in Nevada’s marijuana market. “Most people are factoring (the reciprocity) into their models. All the applications that went in, people discussed it as a part of their model.”
When you consider that Nevada has fewer than 7,000 medical marijuana patients, it’s not a very large base. But when you factor in MMJ patients from other states who might take advantage of Nevada’s system — another 110,000 from Colorado, 570,000 from California and 100,000 from Washington — suddenly those numbers are looking a lot better.
“Giving patients the ability to legally access medical marijuana when they’re visiting a legal medical state just makes sense,” said Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, a national trade group for legal marijuana businesses. “And it makes even more sense when you’re talking about a state that has such a huge number of out-of-state visitors. It’s safer for patients and good for Nevada businesses — win-win.”
Sure enough, Vegas sees roughly 40 million visitors annually — but how many of those tourists will have valid medical marijuana cards, and how many of those patients will take the time to seek legal Nevada weed?
“We’re still talking relatively small numbers,” said Joe Hodas, chief marketing officer at Denver-based marijuana company Dixie Elixirs. “It’s not as if the average tourist or consumer can show up and make a purchase.
“The red card reciprocity won’t have a huge impact on their tourism because it’s a small number of people, many of whom were probably already going to Vegas. It might be a convenience, but if I have a red card, I can already get my medicine in my own state.”
If Nevada does pass recreational marijuana measures in the 2016 election, the earliest the state will see those sales starting is late-2017 — but 2018 is more likely. Until then, companies such as Dixie — which hopes to soon have an agreement allowing the sale of its cannabis-infused edibles, drinks and topicals in Nevada — will have time to leave their mark on the Las Vegas Strip.