You can buy marijuana here in Las Vegas, but it’s tough to use or consume it here — or take it home if you live in another state. No one knows better than Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten how tricky it can be to navigate Nevada’s new marijuana laws — his practice includes defending clients on all types of federal and state drug charges. Here, he explains just about everything you need to know about marijuana law in Las Vegas if you are a tourist, visitor, or Nevada resident interested in purchasing and using marijuana.
Since July 1, 2017, Las Vegas dispensaries have been selling recreational marijuana legally. Anyone over age twenty-one (21) may purchase up to one (1) ounce of cannabis flower or one-eighth (1/8) of an ounce of edibles or concentrates per visit.
Individuals over the age of twenty-one (21) may legally possess one (1) ounce of marijuana. Possession of more than one (1) ounce is still a felony under Nevada law. So, if you buy an ounce, don’t make another visit and buy more until you’ve used it. You can’t stock up or take a stash home without risking arrest.
For anyone under the age of twenty-one, unless the person has a legal medical marijuana card, purchase or possession of any quantity of marijuana is illegal.
Medical marijuana card holders can still make purchases as before, up to two-and-one-half (2.5) ounces every two (2) weeks. Unlike some states, where dispensaries have separate inventory for recreational and medical marijuana, Nevada dispensaries sell both recreational and medical marijuana from a single inventory. Using a medical marijuana card sometimes will get you a discount of between ten (10) and twenty (20) percent.
You cannot consume (eat or smoke) your legal marijuana in any public place. Doing so constitutes a misdemeanor that can carry a $600 fine and a drug conviction on your record. At the present time in Nevada, marijuana can only be used in a private residence, including on a porch or in a yard. Because of that restriction and other laws discussed below, there are a lot of places where you cannot consume marijuana in Las Vegas, including:
Currently, there are no “pot cafes” or consumption lounges in Las Vegas. On-site consumption in a retail marijuana store would require a change in Nevada state law. While there are movements underway to allow for consumption lounges and similar establishments, the idea is controversial. It is unlikely that any such places will be available in the foreseeable future.
Marijuana possession is still a crime under federal law. That affects what you can do with it after you purchase it in Las Vegas in a number of different ways beyond the public consumption prohibition. There are also other Nevada state laws applicable to using marijuana.
Casinos’ licensing requires them to comply with all federal laws and regulations, including drug laws. Therefore, they and the hotels they operate do not permit marijuana on the premises. Many hotels have posted signs to that effect.
Nevada law prohibits all drug use, including legal marijuana, in a moving vehicle. You cannot smoke or consume edibles while driving or riding in a privately-owned car or in any rented vehicle, including taxis, limousines, rental cars, and motor homes. The law applies to both drivers and passengers.
You can carry your marijuana in your vehicle, as long as it’s within the legally permissible weight of one (1) ounce. But having marijuana in a car is subject to Nevada’s open container law. If you carry marijuana in a vehicle, be sure to keep it in a sealed container. If you fail to keep it in a closed container, you could be cited for an open container violation. If there are minors under the age of fifteen (15) in the car, having the open container can be considered an “aggravating circumstance,” which is an even more serious charge. The open container limitations do not apply to the passenger area in a limousine, bus, or in living areas of a motor home or recreational vehicle.
It also is illegal to drive while under the influence of any drugs, including legal marijuana. Driving while you are high can result in a DUID charge.
If you live in another state, you can’t legally take your marijuana home either. Transporting pot across state lines is a federal offense, so you can’t drive home with it. (Incidentally, you can’t drive marijuana into Nevada either, so bringing your own pot with you and using it in Nevada isn’t an option.) Carrying it on an airplane is also a federal offense, since marijuana is still illegal under federal law. You can’t ship it either — if you try, and the carrier discovers the marijuana, law enforcement officers may be there to arrest you when the package arrives.
At present, you can take your marijuana to McCarran International Airport, although Clark County Commissioners currently are considering making possession illegal at the airport. If marijuana is found in your luggage or carry-on bags, TSA (which doesn’t have authority to arrest) will call in an officer from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LCMPD). The officer will weigh your drugs and determine whether the amount is legal. If it isn’t, they will arrest you. If it is, they will send you on your merry way. However, once you board the plane and it takes off, you are under federal jurisdiction, and possession is once again illegal. Then, when you land (whether enroute or at home), you need to be aware of whether possession is legal in the state where you arrived.
The question of what you can do with marijuana after you purchase it in Las Vegas (or elsewhere in Nevada) is under much discussion everywhere in and beyond Las Vegas — including in news stories across the country. No one has a good answer.
In all likelihood, visitors to Las Vegas will opt for edibles and discreetly consume them in a non-public place. Early sales data indicates that is probably what is happening. There also have been suggestions that visitors can rent limousines and pay them to sit in place while the occupants enjoy their marijuana. Proponents argue that as long as the vehicle isn’t moving, citation for using marijuana in a moving vehicle isn’t likely. Prosecutors and law enforcement have not weighed in on the suggestion — so if you decide to pursue that idea, you will do so at your own risk.
Since edibles are likely to be popular until alternatives for using legal marijuana become viable, a word of extreme caution is essential: Edibles have a much higher concentration of the drug than does raw plant material that is smoked. As a result, edibles produce a far stronger effect. In addition, because edibles have to be digested, the effect is not immediate as it is with smoking. You may not feel the effect from edibles until as long as two (2) hours after ingesting them — which often leads to the temptation to consume more. There are countless stories in print and online about people who consumed too many edibles in too short of a time and wound up virtually incapacitated, some for as long as eight (8) hours. Nevada law requires all edibles to carry labels warning of the delay and intensity of the effects. Whatever you do: believe them!
Because Nevada laws legalizing sale, possession, and use of marijuana are very new, there is a lot of confusion about them. It can be easy for unwary visitors to inadvertently violate the law and receive a citation. If you are arrested in Las Vegas or elsewhere in Clark County on marijuana or other drug charges, having knowledgeable and skillful legal counsel is essential. A drug conviction on your record can have far-reaching and long-range implications on your life, no matter where you live.
Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten has extensive experience defending Las Vegas visitors and residents facing federal and state criminal charges. If you’ve been arrested in Las Vegas or anywhere else in Clark County, contact Attorney Gersten to schedule a free consultation.