Nevada legalised recreational use of cannabis in 2017. Now, adults over the age of 21 can legally purchase up to one ounce of cannabis from a state-licenced retailer; or if there isn’t a retailer near their property, they can grow up to six plants at home. However, there are rules in place. For example, public use is forbidden and will incur a fine.
Cannabis laws in Nevada
The US is governed by federal and state laws. This article covers the cannabis laws in the state of Nevada. For US federal laws, please visit our other article.
Can you possess and use cannabis in Nevada?
Recreational cannabis use was legalised in Nevada in 2017. Prior to this, those caught in possession of up to one ounce were given a fine, with no criminal record imposed unless they’d committed the same offence two further times.
Interestingly, before 2001, Nevada was the only state in the US that regarded cannabis possession (of any amount) as a felony offence.
Now, Nevada state law permits individuals to possess up to one ounce of cannabis (or 1/8 ounce of concentrated cannabis, such as separated resin). They must be over the age of 21, but cannot consume the cannabis in any public place. This means that it’s only legal to use in a private residence, and if living in rented accommodation, permission must be obtained from the property owner first.
If caught consuming cannabis in a public place (or even in a licenced retail store), individuals can be fined up to $600.
Driving and cannabis
Nevada’s law states that cannabis cannot be consumed in any moving vehicle. This applies to passengers as well as drivers.
If a driver is caught operating a vehicle with 2 nanograms of active THC in their bloodstream, this is counted as a DUI (driving under the influence). The offender receives the same penalties as a driver under the influence of alcohol – and it’s estimated that the average DUI costs individuals around $10,000 (including all legal fees etc.).
Purchasing cannabis legally
The only way to purchase cannabis in Nevada is to buy from a store or dispensary with a state licence. It’s illegal to buy it through any other source. Additionally, customers must prove their age with an ID card.
Employers and cannabis
The law doesn’t give individuals the right to use cannabis in all circumstances. For example, if an employer believes that a staff member’s performance is impaired by cannabis use, they have the right to carry out drug tests. They can also establish workplace policies regarding its consumption; for example, banning cannabis use if the after-effects are likely to affect productivity. This is permitted under the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act.
Can you sell cannabis in Nevada?
Retailers can sell cannabis in Nevada, provided they have a state-issued licence. Cannabis selling commenced in July 2017, with 61 dispensaries reporting close to $425 million in recreational cannabis sales.
This figure continued to rise in 2018. In the last half of the year, the dispensaries reported $884 million in sales, which generated close to $72 million in taxes for the state.
However, the licencing process hasn’t been without its controversies.
In 2019, several companies sued the state tax department. They claimed that Nevada approved some retailers unconstitutionally, and that the criteria for licencing was shrouded in unnecessary secrecy.
Gov. Steve Sisolak recognised “the frustrations of many marijuana licence applicants with the current licencing process,” and highlighted the forthcoming legislation which “would shed light on the methodology used… in granting licences.”
Can you grow cannabis in Nevada?
The state permits adults to grow cannabis plants at home. However, there are certain rules in place:
- Adults must be over the age of 21.
- The plants must be for personal consumption only.
- They can only be grown if there isn’t a state-licenced cannabis retailer within 25 miles of the home.
- Only six plants may be grown per person.
- No more than 12 plants can be grown per household.
- Plants must be grown in an enclosed, lockable area, such as a cupboard, greenhouse or other room.
- They must not be visible from a public place.
- The grower must be the homeowner. If not, they must have permission to grow the cannabis from the legal owner of the property.
Is CBD legal in Nevada?
CBD is legal in Nevada, providing it derives from hemp (which is low in THC), not cannabis. In 2018, the federal law was changed, making CBD a Class V substance, not a Class I (the category reserved for the most dangerous drugs).
This means that CBD can be purchased, used and sold in Nevada.
Can cannabis seeds be sent to Nevada?
As cannabis consumption and cultivation is permitted in the state, this means that cannabis seeds are also legal. They can be purchased, used and sold here. However, taking them across state borders is another matter. Each state has different laws regarding cannabis, so as such, the seeds must remain within Nevada.
This makes sending them in the mail a ‘grey area’. Some anecdotal reports state that seeds sometimes get held by customs when sent into the state.
Medicinal cannabis in Nevada
Cannabis was legalised for medicinal purposes in 2000. The following conditions can be treated with the drug:
- Muscle spasms/seizures
- Anorexia or Cachexia
- Severe nausea
- Chronic or severe pain
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Opioid addiction
- Neuropathic conditions, whether or not they cause seizures
- Other conditions (subject to approval)
Patients may possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, plus/or the maximum permitted quantity of edible cannabis products or cannabis-infused products. They may also cultivate up to 12 plants at home, if there is no dispensary within 25 miles (40 km) of their property. If they need a particular strain of cannabis that’s not provided by their local dispensary, they may also cultivate that – regardless of the distance of the dispensary to their home.
A Medical Marijuana card is required in order to access medicinal cannabis products. These are only issued after an evaluation, carried out by a doctor.
The changes to the recreational cannabis law have impacted the medicinal cannabis programme. For example, the state application process can now all be completed online, making it easier for patients to obtain their medication.
Industrial hemp in Nevada
After the Farm Bill came into action in 2018 (legalising the cultivation of industrial hemp across the nation), many states started introducing hemp programmes, to support local growers.
Nevada’s Industrial Hemp programme seeks to outline the benefits of growing the plant, and to ensure that all those who do grow it remain within the law. All hemp grown in Nevada must adhere to the definition outlined in the federal law, which is: “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant (…) with a [THC] concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”
Joe Frey, the owner of Western State Hemp, highlights the potential that hemp offers growers in the state. “I would say we have far less product than what there is demand for on the market right now,” he comments.
Good to know
If you are travelling to Nevada (or currently live there), you may be interested to know the following:
- The cannabis trade is booming in Nevada. Prior to businesses selling cannabis for recreational use, the state predicted that annual sales would be $265 million. The actual amount was approximately 60% higher than this.
- The number of students suspended or expelled from school for possessing a drug dropped in the 2016/17 school year; after recreational cannabis use was legalised. It’s possible that the two might be linked.
- Recent reports claim that Nevada could raise over $1 billion during the first seven years of selling recreational cannabis.
Prior to the 1920’s, Nevada (like most other US states) had a good relationship with cannabis and hemp. It was widely grown and used for a variety of purposes, including rope and fibre-making. However, the introduction of the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937 meant that cannabis was prohibited across the country, and Nevada was no exception. In fact, the state had already banned it, back in 1923.
However, by 1998, attitudes had changed completely. Nevada’s residents approved the Nevada Medical Marijuana Act, which legalised cannabis for medicinal purposes. The amendment to the law required two consecutive approvals, so it wasn’t until after the second election in 2000 that the medicinal products became fully legal.
Sixteen years later, Nevada’s general public voted again – this time to legalise recreational use. They’re now one of the few states in the US to have done so; though numbers are rising.
Attitudes towards cannabis
As the law so clearly demonstrates, attitudes towards cannabis in Nevada are largely positive. Prominent figures, such as Gov. Sisolak, have made public appearances in the past alongside cannabis advocates, and have spoken out about its benefits.
Sisolak recently commented: “The reality is, this is the future. Let’s not be ashamed of it.”
Nevada’s tourist trade
While the recreational cannabis laws in Nevada are undoubtedly progressive, they pose problems with regards to ‘cannabis tourism’. For example, those who come to Las Vegas can legally obtain the drug from a retailer. The only issue is, they can’t then consume it anywhere; as the law requires them to be in a private residence.
Also, federal law still states that cannabis consumption and sale is illegal. Institutions such as the casinos in Las Vegas are regulated heavily by the federal government, so this could cause problems.
However, this is set to change. Las Vegas City Council voted to let existing dispensaries open ‘cannabis lounges’, where people can legally consume the drug. This has caused disruption among the city’s businesses.
Tick Segerblom, Clark County Commissioner and a former state senator, commented: “We’re the new Amsterdam. They’re [the gaming companies] concerned about [lounges] making money outside the hotels. They’re worried the longer this goes outside hotels, the more established they’ll get. As a business person, I would be concerned too.”
- Disclaimer:While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide legal advice, as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.