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Guide to Nevada Marijuana Laws

Guide to Nevada Marijuana Laws

Nevada has long had a reputation for indulging taboo activities, particularly in the famous “Sin City” of Las Vegas. On November 8, 2016, the Silver State added recreational marijuana to the list. When the Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative (also know as Question 2) passed, it legalized purchase, possession, consumption, and cultivation of marijuana for anyone over the age of 21. This made Nevada the eighth state in which voters chose to make recreational marijuana fully legal.

It took over a decade for medical marijuana dispensaries to open after medical cannabis was legalized in 2000. But that infrastructure is playing an important role in getting recreational marijuana sales underway quickly because the new law says dispensaries get first crack at licenses for recreational cannabis.

The Nevada Department of Taxation has until December 31, 2017 to finalize the regulations for the industry and begin issuing licenses, but they have pledged a faster timeline. If they are able to achieve their goal, medical marijuana dispensaries will be selling recreational marijuana as early as July 1. Until then, no legal sales transactions can occur.

How Nevada Got Legal

Here’s how Nevada’s acceptance of cannabis has unfolded over the years. It has not been a fast process, but slow and steady wins the race.

Marijuana Law Milestones
  • 2000:  Nevada voters legalized medical cannabis
    • But the law allowing dispensaries to open was not passed until 2013
  • 2003:  A proposed amendment to the Nevada Constitution to decriminalize marijuana is defeated.
  • 2004:  A ballot initiative to legalize an ounce or less of marijuana for adults is narrowly defeated.
  • 2007:  The Nevada Marijuana Initiative, allowing the sale, use, and possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana, is defeated.
  • 2013:  The Nevada Senate passes Senate Bill 374 to license medical marijuana dispensaries.
    • The bill passes by a 17-4 vote
  • 2014:  Medical marijuana sales became legal.
    • Senate Bill 374 goes into effect, making it legal to grow, sell, test, and tax marijuana
    • But the process of being approved as a licensed dispensary is arduous
  • July 31, 2015:  Nevada’s first medical marijuana dispensary finally opens in the city of Sparks.
  • November 8, 2016:  The Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative (also know as Question 2) passes.
    • This legalizes possession, consumption, cultivation, and purchase of marijuana for adults
The Steps to Legal Sales

Following the passage of Question 2 on November 8, 2016, recreational marijuana was still not readily available through legal means because the infrastructure for licensing shops and for oversight of the industry was not yet in place. Here’s how things unfolded–and continue to unfold–following passage:

  • November 9, 2016: The Nevada Department of Taxation is given responsibility for regulation of the non-medical marijuana industry.
  • November 10, 2016:  The Department of Taxation issues a press release stating it will work on temporary regulations to be issued well before the deadline.
  • November 29, 2016:  Nevada Senator Tick Segerblom (known as the “Godfather of Marijuana” in Nevada) visits Portland, Oregon to see if Oregon’s “Early Start” program would work for Nevada.
  • January 1, 2017:  Purchase, possession, consumption, and transport of 1 ounce or less of marijuana becomes legal for anyone 21 or older.
    • Adults 21 and older can also grow up to 6 marijuana plants
    • For 18 months, only businesses that currently have medical marijuana business licenses can apply for recreational licenses
    • The Department of Taxation has 12 months to get a licensing and regulatory program in place
      • But they estimate early guidelines will be in place by June
      • They plan to issue temporary licenses to existing marijuana businesses
      • The state would start accepting applications for temporary licenses in May
      • They would begin issuing the temporary licenses on July 1
      • The licenses will be valid until December 31, 2017 or 30 days after permanent regulations are in place
  • February 6, 2017:  The Nevada legislative session begins.
    • Legislators are expected to pass bills clarifying Question 2
    • But they are not allowed to amend or change it in any way
  • January 1, 2018:  The Department of Taxation deadline for issuing regulations for the recreational program
    • They must begin accepting applications on or before this date
    • Applications can be for licenses to sell recreational marijuana or for dual licenses to sell both recreational and medical marijuana
    • Applications are required to be accepted or rejected within 90 days of submission
    • As soon as licenses are issued, retail marijuana shops can open for business
The National Context

Just how is Nevada’s legalization of recreational marijuana seen on a federal level?

  • Now that Nevada has legalized recreational marijuana, there is now a strong block of states on the entire West Coast reaching from the Pacific to Colorado.
    • This strengthens the challenge to the federal government’s ban on MJ
  • Those working for drug policy reform say this block of states dramatically boosts the movement’s political clout on a national level.
    • It adds to the pressure on the federal government to allow each state to decide on its own regulations.
    • It also illustrates the real dysfunction between state and federal legal systems:
      • The feds take tax dollars from marijuana companies
      • But those same companies have trouble opening bank accounts or accepting credit cards because of the federal ban on marijuana
  • Tom Angell, Chairman of the drug policy reform group called Marijuana Majority, claims the end of federal marijuana prohibition is now only a matter of time and that policies related to it will be a much bigger issue in Washington, DC.
  • The confirmation of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General in February, 2017 created some anxiety among marijuana reform advocates.
    • He can choose to uphold or rescind the U.S. Justice Department’s August, 2013 memo suggesting that U.S. attorneys not prioritize marijuana-related convictions.
  • You can learn more about the current administration’s thoughts on state legalization in this article.

And how does it fit in with other legalization movements around the country?

  • With the passing of Question 2, Nevada joins Oregon, Washington and California in legalization.
    • This means there are now four states sharing borders that have legalized marijuana.
      • This is an interesting conundrum since it is illegal to transport cannabis across state lines, even between states that have legalized it.
      • Everyone involved in the legalization movement will be watching closely to see how the situation is managed by authorities.
  • With legalization in place now in Nevada and California, the national market for marijuana is projected to reach $22 billion in as little as 4 years (up from $7 billion in 2017).
  • Nevada–along with California, Maine, and Massachusetts–is part of a third wave of states to legalize recreational marijuana. More and more states are expected to place legalization measures on the ballot in the coming elections.
  • Read all about the current status of marijuana in all the states over at NORML.

The Law in Nevada

Personal Use

These are the rules related to recreational marijuana in Nevada:

  • Just like alcohol, pot can only be purchased by adults. You have to be at least 21 years old to buy products from a recreational marijuana store.
    • The rules apply to any adult, even visitors from out of state, as long as they have ID.
    • Visitors to Nevada can also possess marijuana and buy pot from retail stores.
  • All recreational products must be consumed in Nevada
    • It’s not OK to bring your stash across state lines, even from California, where it’s also legal.
    • However, once you’re in Nevada, police can’t ask you where you purchased any marijuana you possess.
  • The most you can purchase and possess at any one time is:
    • One ounce (28 grams) of “usable marijuana”
    • 1/8 of an ounce (3.5 grams) of “marijuana concentrate”
    • This goes for everyone – Nevada residents and visitors alike
  • If you’re 21 or over, and you do not participate in the medical marijuana program, you can grow up to 6 plants at home for personal use.
    • Cultivation has to take place in an enclosed area with a lock
    • You are not allowed to grow if you are less than 25 miles away from an operating marijuana retailer
  • You can share or give 1 ounce or less of marijuana to someone 21 or over as long as no money changes hands.
  • To learn more about Nevada’s laws related to personal use, check out NORML.
A Word About Medical Marijuana

Question 2 does not change any of the existing medical marijuana laws or affect patients’ rights in any way, shape, or form. Everything stays the same for a medical marijuana patient in Nevada.

  • Medical MJ patients can still grow up to 12 mature plants:
    • If there are no dispensaries operating within 25 miles
    • If they are unable to travel to a dispensary
    • If the local dispensaries don’t sell the strain a patient needs
  • Registration with the state is required to grow your own if you’re in the medical marijuana program.
  • You can buy up to 2.5 ounces every 2 weeks.
  • Possession limits stay the same:
    • Up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana
  • Patients will get their medical marijuana cards just like always.
    • Minors under the age of 18 still need a parent or guardian to sign a release form
  • Designated caregivers can still function in the same way.
  • Dispensaries will operate like always but will be able to obtain licenses for recreational sales when the licensing program is ready.
    • The 2% medical marijuana tax (MMT) that is charged now will continue
    • That’s in addition to the usual sales tax amounts
  • If you currently have a medical marijuana card, it’s a good idea to hang on to it since patients will still have some additional rights including the right to grow more pot for personal use and to purchase more cannabis at one time.

To learn more about medical marijuana, see our guide to Buying Medical Marijuana, as well as the Health Benefits of Marijuana.

Buying Weed

You’re 21 years old and you want to buy pot in Nevada. Where can you get some weed?

  • It’s legal to purchase marijuana in Nevada now for personal use, but unless you have a valid medical marijuana card, you can’t buy it:
    • Until recreational stores actually open
    • Or medical dispensaries get their temporary licenses to sell recreational marijuana
  • The state is moving fast on setting up the program.
    • The first temporary licenses could be issued as early as June/July, 2017.
  • Until then, someone cultivating pot at home could share up to 1 ounce of bud.
    • No money can change hands, though, since selling pot – even among friends – is illegal until the recreational stores open.
  • Do not think about bringing marijuana into Nevada from somewhere else since transporting cannabis across state lines is still a felony.
    • This is the case even if the pot is being brought from an adjacent state where marijuana is also legal.

Once you’re able to buy pot in a dispensary with a temporary license or in a recreational store, where can you smoke it?

  • You are not allowed to smoke or ingest marijuana in public at all in Nevada.
    • Not even if you’re a medical marijuana patient
  • The safest thing to do is consume it only at home or on private property.
  • Make sure you don’t smoke it or consume it:
    • On streets
    • While driving a vehicle
    • In public parks or on public transportation
    • In bars and restaurants
    • On federal land, which includes:
      • National parks
      • Federal courthouses or other federal buildings
      • National monuments
      • Military bases
  • If you rent or lease, you’ll need to check with your landlord before lighting up to make sure they approve.
    • They have the right to ban marijuana from their buildings and property
  • Violating the rules has consequences:
    • If you’re busted smoking marijuana in public, it’s a misdemeanor
    • Expect a fine of up to $600
    • The judge can assign community service in addition to or in place of the fine
What the General Public Thinks

What is the attitude toward marijuana/legalization in Nevada?

While the vote to make recreational marijuana legal has been almost too close to call in some states, not so in Nevada. Nearly 10% more voters said yes to the legalization of marijuana in Nevada than those who opposed it on November 8, 2016.

  • The measure was passed by 54.4% of the vote
  • That is the exact percentage of Democrats that support legalization
  • Republicans feel differently,  with 58% opposing it strongly
  • But independents are in line with Democrats, with 51% saying they support it
  • An impressive 64% of Nevadans age 35 and under think that marijuana should be made legal
  • Just 42% of residents ages 50-64 say it should be legal
  • The casinos will be keeping their distance:
    • Casinos are regulated under federal law, which still considers marijuana to be illegal
    • So possession or consumption on casino property or grounds will not be allowed
    • The lobbyists for the casino industry – who wield power in Washington – are working against any change in how marijuana is viewed at the federal level
  • Surprising to many, influential Nevada Senator Harry Reid is opposed to legalization

Police Enforcement

Driving High

Based on Nevada Code NRS 484C.110, driving high is a crime and will bring the same penalties as driving drunk in Nevada. Even if you are not technically under the influence of MJ while you’re driving, you can still be convicted of a Nevada Marijuana DUI if your blood or urine contains sufficient traces of it.

This is called a “per se” rule. As long as your blood or urine contains the minimum prohibited amounts while you’re driving, you’re at risk of a DUI even if you show no signs of being high, and even if you’re not violating any traffic laws. So best to stay put if you’re consuming marijuana.

So what is driving high in Nevada?

  • Unlike some other states, Nevada has decided exactly how much marijuana in your system qualifies you for a marijuana DUI
    • Marijuana detection in urine – 10 nanograms per millimeter
    • Marijuana detection in blood – 2 nanograms per millimeter
    • Marijuana metabolite* in urine – 15 nanograms per millimeter
    • Marijuana metabolite* in blood – 5 nanograms per millimeter

*A metabolite is a byproduct of a parent drug, so a marijuana metabolite is a byproduct of marijuana that shows up after your system has broken down the weed

How can an officer stop you?

  • An officer can stop you for another offense, such as speeding, illegal turn, expired tag, etc.
  • Or if they have probable cause that you are driving impaired. This includes:
    • Speeding
    • Swerving
    • Other suspicious driving activity
  • In Nevada, police are also allowed to set up random sobriety roadblocks
    • As long as they are clearly visible to approaching traffic 100 yards in either direction
    • As long as they make it known that a sobriety checkpoint is ahead
    • The warning has to be at least ¼ mile before the actual checkpoint

What happens when they stop you?

  • They will ask some questions, observe your behavior, and probably have you take a preliminary breath test.
  • If you pass the breath test – meaning no alcohol is detected – then they’ll conduct field sobriety tests to determine your level of impairment.  The test can be:
    • Walk the Line Test – you’ll be asked to walk in a straight line and the officer will watch for lack of balance, inability to stay on a straight line, or breaks in walking.
    • One Leg Stand Test – you will be asked to raise your foot, be still, count and look down and the officer will watch for swaying, hopping, or putting your foot down.
  • They’ll also look for:
    • Dilated pupils
    • The smell of pot
    • Eyelid or body tremors
    • Especially relaxed and uninhibited behavior
    • Short-term memory problems
  • If you fail the field sobriety tests, the officer can arrest you and perform a blood or urine test to determine drug content.
  • In Nevada, anybody driving a vehicle on the highways is deemed to have already given consent to testing of blood or urine for the purpose of determining drug content.
  • The cop can choose between either a blood or urine test and you don’t have the right to have an attorney present before or during the test.
  • You do get to keep your driver’s license until test results come back and are positive for marijuana.
  • Also note that, if you’re carrying marijuana in your car, it has to be in a sealed container away from the driver or any passengers who are minors.
    • If not, you could also be looking at an open container fine

Penalties for a first offense, which is usually a misdemeanor, can include:

  • Two days to 6 months in jail OR
  • Twenty-four to 96 hours of community service with a suspended jail sentence
  • Completion of a Nevada DUI School at your expense
  • Fines between $400 and $1,000 plus court costs
  • Ninety day suspension of your driver’s license
  • All these penalties can be doubled if the DUI occurred in a work zone
  • Be aware that if you were in an accident that killed someone or caused serious harm to them when your marijuana DUI occurred, you can be charged with a felony

Learn more about the laws and penalties for drugged driving in Nevada from NORML.

Other Legal Information

Unlike some other states, Nevada does not make it a crime to be intoxicated in public. In fact, they clearly state it is NOT a crime and they won’t allow local municipalities to consider it a crime either:

“The use of alcohol, the status of drunkard, and the fact of being in an intoxicated condition are not public offenses and shall not be so treated…in any county, city, or town.”

Lawmakers do warn, however, that intoxication can make someone more at risk of being arrested for related offenses like:

  • Disturbing the peace
  • Trespassing
  • DUI
  • Open container

Possession of more than 1 ounce of marijuana or 1/8 of an ounce of concentrates in public:

  • Is a misdemeanor with a $600 fine
  • Using it in public is also a misdemeanor with a $600 fine

Sale, delivery or possession with intent to distribute:

  • Any amount over 1 ounce is a felony with jail time and fines
  • The length of jail time and the amount of the fine depend on how much marijuana we’re talking about
    • More than 1 ounce/less than 100 pounds – 1 to 5 years in jail and $5,000 – $10,000 in fines
    • A second offense for that amount means 3 to 15 years in jail and a $25,000 fine
    • If you possess more than 100  pounds with intent to distribute, you’re going to get old in prison and give up most of your money
    • And if you possess any amount with an intent to sale, deliver or distribute to a minor, you can get a life sentence


If you grow more than the number of plants allowed, it is a felony. Depending on the amount being grown:

  • It can mean 1 year to life in prison (some jail time is mandatory)
  • It will involve a fine of $5,000 – $200,000


  • If you’re over the age of 21, you can possess and use drug paraphernalia with no penalties.
  • But if you  sell, deliver to, or distribute it to a minor, it is a category C felony in Nevada with penalties that are fairly stiff:
    • 15 years in state prison
    • A fine of up to $10,000
    • Possible restitution for the cost of any substance abuse program the minor might attend

City and municipal laws:

  • Cities and counties can vote to completely ban recreational marijuana facilities
  • They can restrict where marijuana businesses can be located
  • Local municipalities are also allowed to “reasonably regulate” the growing, possession, and use of marijuana plants

Learn more about Nevada’s laws and penalties through NORML.

Going into Business

While going into the marijuana business in Nevada is appealing like it is in other states where marijuana is legal, getting set up is not going to be a walk in the park. Here’s what you need to know before you start writing that business plan.


For the first 18 months after the recreational marijuana program in Nevada is up and running, current medical marijuana dispensaries are going to have dibs on opening new facilities for recreational marijuana. That includes new dispensaries, cultivation and testing facilities, and manufacturing facilities for things like bongs, bubblers, and pipes.

After that, the general public can join in. But the Nevada Department of Taxation won’t be handing out licenses like candy.

  • Licenses will be limited by county, based on population
  • There will be 5 types of licenses issued:
    • Retail stores
    • Manufacturers
    • Cultivators
    • Distributors
    • Testing facilities
  • If they choose, counties can ban recreational facilities completely

It is not yet clear whether the Department of Taxation will limit the number and type of recreational marijuana business licenses an owner can have but it appears, early on, that they will be allowing multiple types in any combination.

Be aware that local governments could also require licenses and, if this is the case where you live, a state license may not be obtainable until all local licenses are in place.

To learn more about obtaining a Nevada marijuana business license, see these FAQs from the State of Nevada Department of Taxation.

How to Acquire a License

The state should begin accepting recreational license applications from existing marijuana businesses in May, 2016.  But if you don’t currently operate a licensed medical marijuana business, the earliest you will be able to apply for a license to open a brand new business is January 1, 2019.

Who Can Apply for a License

To apply for a recreational marijuana business license prior to January 1, 2019:

  • You must own/operate a licensed marijuana facility currently
  • You must still be in compliance with all requirements for your current license

Qualifications for the general public to apply for a recreational marijuana business license after January 1, 2019 are going to be determined in the 2016 legislative session in Nevada, but we do know:

  • You must be a legal resident of the State of Nevada
  • You cannot have a prior conviction of certain felonies
  • You cannot have had a medical marijuana license revoked in the past

There will be a fee for submitting your application for a license and then a fee for the license itself, and they are not cheap:

  • One time application fee – $5,000
  • Cultivation facility license – $30,000
  • Retail store license – $20,000
  • Wholesale distributor license – $15,000
  • Testing facility license – $15,000
  • Product manufacturing license – $10,000

Annual license renewals will cost you:

  • Cultivation license renewal – $10,000
  • Retail license renewal – $6,600
  • Wholesale distributor license renewal – $5,000
  • Testing facility license renewal – $5,000
  • Product manufacturing license renewal – $3,300
Refusals for Licenses

The Nevada Department of Taxation will be able to refuse a license to applicants. Not all of the criteria have been finalized but some of the reasons they will refuse a license are:

  • If there will be excessive concentration in a given area
  • If the person is not a Nevada resident for a certain number of years
  • If the person applying provides false information to the Department
  • If the person applying has certain convictions on their record
  • If the person applying has had a medical marijuana license revoked in the past
  • If the facility would be:
    • Within 1,000 feet of a school
    • Within 300 feet of a park, church, daycare, or playground

How will recreational marijuana be taxed in Nevada?

  • When recreational stores open for business, all cannabis sales will be taxed at whatever current state and local rates are in place.
  • Cultivation facilities will pay a 15% excise tax.
  • Additional marijuana taxes have been proposed by Governor Brian Sandoval and other legislators, but they have not been voted on or passed.

Where will the tax dollars go?

  • Tax dollars, licensing fees and penalties will:
    • Go first to the Department of Taxation and local governments
    • They will cover costs related to administering the program
    • Then all remaining revenue will go to the State Distributive School Account
  • Full details of tax revenue distribution will be established by the Department of Taxation later in 2017.

Growing Pot

Question 2 allows adults 21 and over in Nevada to grow marijuana for their personal use.

  • Adults can possess and grow up to 6 mature plants at any one time
    • An additional 6 plants are also allowed if they’re not flowering
    • This number of plants applies to any household, no matter how many adults live there
  • Medical marijuana patients can still grow up to 12 mature plants at any one time.
  • You can’t grow any marijuana if you’re within 25 miles of an operating marijuana retailer.
  • You have to grow in an enclosed area with a door or entry that locks.
    • Anyone who has a key must be 21 or older
  • If you end up with more marijuana than you can use, you can give away up to an ounce to someone 21 or older but no money can change hands.
  • Property owners can ban the cultivation of marijuana on their properties – meaning your landlord can decide that plants cannot be grown on their property, i.e., in your apartment.

To learn more about the laws related to growing marijuana in Nevada:

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