Nevada voters legalized recreational marijuana last year, but the law prohibits public consumption. The regulations ban consumption everywhere except for private residences and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police have issued warnings that smoking marijuana is not allowed on the Strip, or anywhere in the city except for private homes.
The issue of public consumption has been debated over the last few months because Las Vegas is a large tourist destination; many people shopping in the dispensaries will not have a private residence to go to. According to a report published by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval's marijuana task force, an estimated 63 percent of recreational customers will be tourists. Senator Richard "Tick" Segerblom, who is worried that a tourist town like Las Vegas needs to provide safe spaces for tourists to consume, sponsored a bill that attempted to legalize licensed cannabis consumption lounges, Nevada's SB 236. But, it floundered in May.
A spokesperson at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino says the company has a simple policy, despite recreational marijuana being legal in the state.
"The use of marijuana is prohibited at all of our properties," says Yvette Monet, who works in the Bellagio's corporate communications office.
Monet says she is unsure about how the hotel will handle a customer who breaks the policy, but she said marijuana is federally illegal and the hotel will not tolerate its use. In statements to other news outlets, MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment had similar responses.
In 2016, Tony Alamo, the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, said in a statement to casino owners and gaming license holders that they should not be involved in the industry, citing federal law against marijuana.
Krista Whitley, a marijuana entrepreneur in Las Vegas and founder of the Weekend Box, a package filled with the best-selling marijuana products, says hotels are not allowing dispensaries to deliver marijuana and marijuana products to guests.
"This is the major issue at hand--we need to provide a safe space for the tourists," says Whitley. "How do we address this issue? It's not the best policy to ticket tourists. The only solution is to make friends."
Medical marijuana was passed in Nevada in 2000, the same year Colorado legalized medical pot, but the measure lacked language to create a system to sell marijuana until 2013. The first medical dispensaries opened in 2015.
Nevada is not alone in its cannabis consumption predicament; most of the states that have legalized marijuana do not allow public consumption. However, the first consumption cafés in the U.S. will open in Denver this summer. In November, voters passed Initiative 300, which approved a four-year cannabis cafe pilot program. But the cafes will not be like bars; the spaces will be bring-your-own-bud style and the cafes are not allowed to sell marijuana or alcohol.
Scot Rutledge, a lobbyist who helped run the campaign to legalize adult-use marijuana, says he thinks the lack of safe places for tourists to consume could pose a problem.
"Ticketing tourists is not a sustainable strategy," says Rutledge. "We don't have regulations to support it now, but the creation of cannabis lounges is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs in Las Vegas to set the example for the country."