Las Vegas has embraced the nickname Sin City. For generations, the Nevada desert destination is the place to go for legal debauchery and vice: gambling, prostitution, binge drinking … and now recreational marijuana. But tourists hoping to legally enjoy cannabis have discovered a major problem. There is no place to consume the herb.
Last month, Nevada became the eighth state to allow the sale of recreational cannabis to adults, but the law clearly states that it is illegal to consume it in hotels, casinos, sidewalks. Basically, the only place you can use marijuana is in the privacy of a private residence.
What is a cannabis-loving tourist to do? Good question.
In Vegas, it is totally cool to walk down The Strip sipping a cocktail or guzzling a beer. But weed? A tourist caught consuming cannabis in public is gambling on a $600 fine.
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City police say they will enforce the law and promise to crack down on tourists who light up in public spaces.
Roughly 45 million tourists visit Las Vegas each year looking to unwind and spend money on their favorite vice. It’s easy to purchase weed in the city, but not so easy to enjoy it.
Why are casinos drawing such a hard line? The gambling regulators in Nevada have told casinos to follow federal law, which still outlaws marijuana. Gaming is a $13 billion business in the state so the risk to the casino industry is massive.
As Tony Alamo, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission told CBS News: “This is the marijuana industry. This is the gaming industry. And the two shall never meet. At the end of the day, it’s very clear cut. It’s against federal law. And until the federal law changes, that’s the standard they have to maintain.”
Nevada is not the only legal marijuana state grappling with the issue. All eight states that have allowed for the sale of cannabis do not have sufficient rules in place yet to accommodate out-of-towners. Tourists visiting Seattle, Portland, Denver and other cities in legal states have struggled to find a legal place to consume their legal weed.
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The city of Denver is working on a plan to allow cannabis clubs, but negotiations continue. For now, most tourists do what they have always been forced to do: Break local laws.
“That’s the problem,” Las Vegas dispensary owner Armen Yemenidjian told CBS News. “No other industry in the world can you buy a product and then not use it anywhere. It’s silly.”