Nevada’s voters, along with those of California and Massachusetts, opted yesterday to legalize recreational marijuana.
But Las Vegas’ casinos aren’t high on the idea, especially Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson.
Medical marijuana was first legalized in Nevada in 2000, but in 2013 the state passed a bill that would actually allow businesses to dispense it.
The new initiative goes one step further, calling for the legalization of recreational use of cannabis by adults 21 and over, provided they are in possession of one ounce or less of the drug.
It will likely pave the way for new laws permitting the establishment of recreational marijuana stores and public spaces where people can smoke publicly.
For Sin City, it would seem like the perfect fit, and it may even draw more millennials into town to play on those new skill-gaming machines that casinos will soon roll out.
When Colorado legalized marijuana, for example, tourism to Denver alone increased by one million people. So why did the casinos oppose “Question 2” on yesterday’s Nevada ballot?
Well, the problem is, although legal at state level, marijuana possession is still a federal felony, and, as far as the Nevada Gaming Control Board is concerned, this is all that matters. The regulator has ruled that none of its license holders should have anything to do with the state’s legalization of the marijuana trade.
Thus, casino operators do not want people wandering around their properties believing it is their God-given right to spark up a fat doobie anywhere they please. And meanwhile, the more time people spend baked off their butts watching Adventure Time and eating Cheetos, the less time they spend gambling.
It also presents casinos with a potentially huge headache. Federal anti-money laundering directives make it illegal for casinos to profit from the sale of drugs.
That means that as long as state laws and federal laws don’t match up on marijuana, they are unable to accept money from anyone involved in the medical or recreational marijuana industry, whether it’s legal in the state or not.
Should a casino knowingly accept a bet from a person working in the medical marijuana industry, they could face prosecution. Does this mean they will be required to perform a series of time-consuming, expensive, and frankly unrealistic background checks on every customer who walks in?
Meanwhile, Adelson has personal reasons as well as practical ones for his opposition to marijuana legislation all over the United States. In 2005, the casino mogul’s son, Mitchell, died of a drug overdose and it’s believed that he sees cannabis as a gateway to more dangerous narcotics.
Adelson has donated millions of dollars this year to the battle to halt marijuana legislation across the US, but it looks like, in his home state at least, all that money just went up in smoke.