Gaming regulators in Nevada are scheduled to meet this week to discuss the ramifications of the use of marijuana becoming legal in the state. Nevada recently legalized the recreational use of marijuana but the possession and use of marijuana is still a crime under federal law.
The change in the state law has thrown up a number of questions around how casino operators will handle issues arising from marijuana use on their facilities. State Gaming Control Board has asked the Nevada Gaming Commission to address the matter.
Chairman Tony Alamo has confirmed that the Commission would be meeting later this week to work through a list of identified issues. The meetings will take the form of discussions and not hearings, with public comments scheduled to be taken separately. Post discussions, commission members will decide if additional regulation is required to be formulated.
Philip Mannelly, an employment law attorney with the Las Vegas office of McDonald Carano and an expert in the new recreational marijuana law pointed out that the issues facing the regulators go beyond the conflict between state and federal law. He said that there needs to an understanding on how casinos will treat marijuana usage observed in both patrons and employees. Mannelly said that casinos are likely to take a hard stance against possession and usage of the drug.
In a statement Mannelly said
If they (customers) are using it on site, just as if a patron at a casino is overly intoxicated or is being unruly or obnoxious or card counting, a casino has every right to ask them to leave their private premises, and if they don’t, they’re trespassing. Those become business decisions of the casino
Several resorts across the country ban the usage of marijuana in hotel rooms but Mannelly noted that the availability of edible pot made the implementation of such policies difficult. State Gaming Control Board member Terry Johnson also pointed out that it was typically difficult to spot someone high unlike in the case of alcohol intoxication.
There are also uncertainties surrounding what punitive actions are to be taken against casinos that fail to take action against patrons caught using marijuana. In regards to employees, Mannelly stated that there was a misconception that the legalization of recreational marijuana was a pro-employment move but actually the law only decriminalizes usage.
He noted that unlike in the case of alcohol, using pot on a Friday could result in it showing up in the employees system on Monday, which potentially raises questions on how it will be treated.