Since January 1st, 2017 the safest bet in Sin City has been and will continue to be on cannabis.
With more than a half a billion dollars in recreational reefer revenue in the first year alone, legal weed has become big business in Las Vegas.
Ever since Nevada voters went all in on legalization, the state and its traditional power players have scrambled to catch up to the rapidly growing and evolving cannabis movement that has taken the state by storm.
In early 2018 Gov. Brian Sandoval commissioned a group he called the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee (NGPC) to research and report back on the impact of cannabis legalization on the state’s lifeblood gaming industry.
By March they had finalized their report and they pulled no punches when it came to their opinion on ganja and gambling. In no uncertain terms they stated that no gaming license holder should do business “with an individual or entity engaged in the sale, cultivation or distribution of marijuana.”
Tony Alamo, chair of the NGPC, went further, stating, “The gaming licensee cannot directly participate in the marijuana industry as a landlord, tenant or through business relationships.”
The only exception that they made at the time was to allow cannabis-related trade shows like MJBizCon, CHAMPS Trade Show, or AGE to be held in casinos and convention halls as long as no actual cannabis is sold, possessed, or consumed onsite.
Roughly a month later, in April of 2018, the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) voted to clarify the rules governing how casinos deal with visibly impaired people. The clarification emphasized that customers clearly under the influence of cannabis should not be allowed to gamble.
In May 2018 the same Nevada Gaming Commission finally acted on the March report from the governor’s gaming pane. Bucking the panel’s recommendations regarding arm’s-length business deals with the cannabis industry, the authoritative and superseding NGC decided to officially allow a gaming license holder to lease a building from a businessman who also rents to someone in the marijuana industry.
Throughout this political ping pong, the state’s cannabis industry continued to grow and thrive due in large part to the tourist magnet destination of Vegas where now people from all around the globe could add “getting baked on legal weed” to the list of their debaucherously devious plans for their stay.
In November, we reported on the complaints from casinos that all of those terped-up tourists have nowhere to smoke their weed except in their rooms or around the properties. Fearing federal backlash, neither of those options was good enough for high rolling casino owners.
A proposal was put forth to legalize and establish legit cannabis lounges where tourists and visitors alike could peruse and partake in a plethora of pot… but the casinos don’t like that idea either. After all, if you’re chillin’ at a lounge smoking weed, you’re not losing your kids’ college funds at the craps table. Can’t have that now, can they?
Still, the custies filled the dispensaries and the smoke filled the air.
But somewhat quietly over the past few months, casinos have been softening their stance on cannabis as public interest and approval for the plant keep setting new highs.
In particular, Vegas casinos have begun to lessen or altogether drop employment drug screening for marijuana use.
In the past year, Caesars’ Entertainment ceased the practice of pre-employment cannabis screening for the majority of employees and will only require such a test if an employee is clearly impaired at work and/or is a safety liability.
The Nevada Association of Employers has roughly 400 members in its group and they estimate that 1 in 10 have stopped testing for marijuana in an effort to keep positions filled.
That estimate lines right up with stats from The Employers Council in Denver who reports that 10% of Colorado-based employers dropped marijuana-targeted drug screening in 2016.
In the last year, anti-weed employers in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have lost lawsuits for rescinding job offers or firing existing employees who tested positive for cannabis.
Surely the powers behind the ultra-lucrative Vegas gaming industry are smart enough to see the writing on the wall when it comes to weed. And surely they can relate to the overbearing government regulation and intervention that the freshly sprouted cannabis industry is forced to endure. So surely we expect them to embrace the cannabis plant, and dollar, just as soon as we see substantial federal cannabis reform.
When will that be? All bets are off…