Within the last year, Nevada has acquired two professional sports teams and legalized the recreational use of marijuana. While the reaction to the new sports market has been mostly positive, the same does not apply regarding the legalization of marijuana. Let’s take a look at the history of marijuana in Nevada.

Marijuana in Nevada

Marijuana has long been a controversial topic for Nevadans. It was first banned in 1923 as part of a nationwide effort to limit the use of Cannabis during the prohibition era.

Nearly 75 years later, in 1998, the Nevada Medical Marijuana act (Question 9) passed with a 59% approval. However, the initiative required approval in consecutive elections because it was an amendment to the state constitution. The legislation passed for a second time in 2000, with 65% of the vote. The Nevada Medical Marijuana act provided that patients may possess a maximum of 2.5 ounces of usable cannabis as well as an amount of edible or infused products which are the “equivalent” of 2 ½ ounces of usable marijuana and grow a maximum of 12 usable cannabis plants. Cannabis was being tested and used to treat conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Cancer, Auto Immune Diseases, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis. The approval of using Marijuana to treat these conditions was a major step forward, both medically and socially. While it was apparent that Nevadans understood the medical benefits of marijuana, the Nevada Medical Marijuana act failed to address how one would legally obtain medical cannabis.

History of Recreational Marijuana in Nevada

In 2002, Question 9 went before the voters with a proposal to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis, but was defeated at the polls. Legalized marijuana appeared on the ballot again in 2006 as the “Nevada Regulation of Marijuana Initiative.” The act posed the question of whether the Nevada Revised Statutes would be amended to allow and regulate the sale, use and possession of one ounce or less of marijuana by persons at least 21 years of age, and impose regulations on marijuana retailers. It also questioned whether criminal penalties for causing death or substantial bodily harm when driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol would be considered. However, the initiative received only 44% of the vote, thus it failed.

Medical Marijuana Approval

In 2013, more than a decade after voters approved the Nevada medical marijuana act, the Nevada Legislature finally allowed for the sale of and regulated access to medical cannabis. The Nevada Senate approved a bill, which allowed the licensing of non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries and made it legal to sell, grow, test, and tax marijuana.

The first medical marijuana facility in Nevada opened in Sparks on July 31, 2015. There are now more than 190 operating medical marijuana facilities in the state. In November 2016, Nevada voters narrowly approved the “Initiative to Tax and Regulate Marijuana” making it one of eight states to have legalized the recreational use of cannabis. The measure legalized possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. However, the initiative did not include provisions for regulation beyond taxation, such as licensing retailers.

Recreational Marijuana Early Start Program

As of May 2017, Nevada has approved the “Early Start Program” which will allow for operational medical marijuana facilities in good standing to apply for a recreational license. On July 1st, eligible Nevada dispensaries can begin selling to adults 21 and over. The tax revenues from marijuana sales will be enormous for Nevada’s economy. Additionally, Governor Sandoval plans on applying the revenue from marijuana taxes to fund public education.

After almost a century of prohibition and controversy, Nevada legislation will finally lift the ban on the recreational use of marijuana. Nevada lawmakers are optimistic that the implementation of the new cannabis laws will prove to be profitable.