CARSON CITY, Nev. (June 8, 2021) – Last week, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a bill into law authorizing on-site marijuana consumption at licensed businesses despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition.
Assem. Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) introduced Assembly Bill 341 (AB341) in March. The new law creates two new cannabis business licenses. A license for a “retail cannabis consumption lounge” enables existing marijuana businesses to sell marijuana products for consumption on-site by adults 21 and older. An “independent cannabis consumption lounge” license authorizes a business to enter into a contract with an existing marijuana retailer to purchase and prepare ready-to-consume marijuana products for resale and consumption on site.
Yeager told Marijuana Moment he was thrilled that Sisolak signed AB341 bill into law.
“Consumption lounges will finally provide a lawful place for both tourists and locals to safely consume cannabis. In addition, lounges will help grow Nevada’s small business economy and create hundreds of jobs. In addition, consumption lounges will further solidify Las Vegas’ status as the entertainment capital of the world as well as THE destination for cannabis tourism.”
Nevada legalized marijuana by referendum in November 2016. The first retail shops opened in July 2017. The legalization of on-site consumption will further expand the cannabis market in Nevada despite ongoing federal prohibition.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate cannabis within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
By legalizing marijuana, Nevada removed a huge layer of laws punishing the possession and use of marijuana in the state, but federal prohibition remains in effect. This is significant because FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. Michigan followed suit when voters legalized cannabis for general use in 2018. Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act in 2018. Illinois followed suit in 2019. New Jersey, Montana and Arizona all legalized recreational marijuana through ballot measures in the 2020 election. Earlier this year, New York, New Mexico and Virginia legalized marijuana through legislative action.
With 36 states allowing cannabis for medical use, and 17 legalizing for adult recreational use, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.
The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations, or mandates down our throats.
The passage of AB341 highlights another important strategic reality. Once a state legalizes marijuana – even if only in a very limited way – the law tends to eventually expand. As the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand expands. That creates pressure to further relax state law. These new laws represent a further erosion of unconstitutional federal marijuana prohibition.
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