Will Weed Be Legal In Nevada In The Near Future?

by Jo Yurcaba

Although Nevada currently has laws legalizing medicinal marijuana use, it hasn't taken the full plunge to legalize all marijuana use for people over 21 like its neighbors to the north and the west: Washington, Oregon, and Colorado. But Nevada lawmakers could legalize weed soon, because they're becoming more and more attracted to the positive economic effect Colorado has seen from legalizing, taxing, and regulating the sale of weed. Although weed is technically decriminalized in Nevada, it's still a $600 fine and a misdemeanor for simple possession, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

In April, a group of Nevada lawmakers toured several marijuana stores in Denver with "smiles, selfies, and a few nervous chuckles," according to USA Today. The small group was formed to help other policymakers understand what legalization could mean for the state, which might ask voters to legalize recreational pot next year. The group toured Medicine Man, a 40,000-square-foot grower and store in Denver — one of the state's largest. As the guide showed off a bucket full of dried marijuana, he told Nevada lawmakers that a pound sells for about $2,500 in Colorado, or about $6,000 on the black market.

"Last time I was in one of these, we were doing a bust," joked Ron Dreher, a former narcotics and homicide detective who now works for the Peace Officers Research Association of Nevada.

"Life changes, huh?" State Sen. Richard Segerblom, a Las Vegas Democrat, said laughing as he and Dreher took photos of the plants, for research purposes, of course.

Theo Stroomer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Colorado's marijuana industry generated $150 million in sales last year, which was the first full year of legalization, according to Las Vegas local station 8 News Now. The industry also created 15,000 jobs, which involved working in growing warehouses or in shops where the weed is sold. In November, Nevada's health department announced it had approved 371 preliminary business licenses for medical marijuana businesses, including 55 dispensaries, 117 production facilities, and 17 testing labs, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

Segerblom said he was impressed by the size of Colorado's industry, and that the state has organized regulation well, according to 8 News Now:

Well I think the one thing I've noticed is the fact that they have a lot more local control, as opposed to state control, and they also have vastly more dispensaries than we have.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images News/Getty Images

USA Today said Nevada is having a hard time finding funds to improve public education, so a potential marijuana tax windfall is tempting. (Colorado collected $75 million in weed taxes and fees last year.) Republican Assemblywoman Michele Fiore expressed concern that taxing the industry too much, also known as "gouging," could run buyers back to the black market. After examining the edibles offered at Medicine Man, she told the newspaper:

Colorado's doing well with it. They are letting people be personally responsible for their actions.

For now, Nevada lawmakers will continue to do research, which, at least for the Colorado trip, didn't include testing the product. But Segerblom told that he was tempted:

When I was younger, I smoked it. I inhaled it. And I enjoyed it. And I'm old enough to do it again.

Images: Getty Images (2)