Legal marijuana may be added to Las Vegas’ list of vices
Nov 8 state ballot would legalize pot
Nevada already has legal brothels, round-the-clock casinos and a coy catchphrase declaring that “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” If voters approve, the state could soon add another vice in the form of recreational marijuana.
A proposal on the Nov. 8 state ballot would legalize pot, and entrepreneurs hope its passage could someday allow the drug at Las Vegas’ glamorous nightclubs and perhaps provide the framework for a future Amsterdam-style cannabis district.
“I really think this would be the thirdlargest market in the country,” said Derek Peterson, whose company operates medical marijuana dispensaries called Blum. He predicts that only California and New York would offer a bigger customer base than Las Vegas and its 42 million tourists a year. “I think it should be able to fit in really well with the whole dayclub/nightclub thing.”
Nevada has allowed medical marijuana since 2000, and Peterson sees recreational pot as an alternative for visitors tired of cocktails that can top $15 apiece and inflict hangovers. But before waitresses begin delivering high-grade marijuana at clubs along the Las Vegas Strip, weed proponents will have to win over not just voters, who narrowly support the initiative in polls, but a risk-averse casino industry. The Nevada Resort Association came out against the measure, pointing to an opinion from gambling regulators that casino owners should avoid the marijuana industry because the substance remains illegal under federal law. Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson has bankrolled most of the opposition, pouring $2 million of his fortune into a campaign that raises the possibility that small children could become intoxicated from candy-like marijuana edibles.
Adelson also has contributed $1.5 million in Arizona and Massachusetts, a significant share of all anti-marijuana donations there. Adelson, whose son died of a drug overdose and whose wife is a doctor specializing in drug addiction, has donated millions toward efforts to defeat medical marijuana proposals in Florida and other states in years past.
Other casino operators have joined the fray, but to a lesser extent. In spite of its libertine reputation, the rigorously regulated casino industry is known to err on the conservative side to avoid scandalizing the middleaged tourists who are its bread and butter. “I don’t know that this is a game changer in terms of tourism,” Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, said of marijuana’s potential. “We’re really known for other things. You may attract people or turn them off.” The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which promotes Sin City’s amenities to the world, is neutral on the issue. Clyde Barrow, a gambling expert who chairs the political science department at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, suggests the donations may indicate the casino companies are acting in their own best interests. “The marijuana industry is emerging as another form of recreation and entertainment. Given the casino industry’s difficulties attracting millennials, marijuana is probably perceived as a direct competitor with casinos for entertainment dollars,” he said. —AP
LAS VEGAS: In this, Oct. 27, 2016, photo, a monitor displays different types of marijuana for sale at Blum.—AP