After the national elections this past November, there are now seven states and Washington D.C. that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Although now legal in Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Washington D.C., it is still illegal to smoke pot in a public place. How individual states tackle the regulatory details of public policy will be a thorny issue.
Nevada is one of the states that voted yes on the recreational marijuana ballot last month. The Nevada Gaming Control Board and Gaming Commission have already had public hearings on how new policy will take shape. But gaming regulators have made it clear that they view marijuana use as illegal, based on federal policy. And since the control board oversees all gaming licenses, casinos will be obligated to fall in line with that point of view or risk losing their casino gambling license.
Tony Alamo is the Gaming Commission chairman in Nevada. He is also a doctor, and that gives him a valuable perspective from both sides of the issues concerning marijuana and gambling. Workshop meetings by the gaming commission and the control board were designed to help give direction to the gaming industry, and Alamo feels that has been accomplished. After their latest workshop, Alamo said, “The industry is looking to see what our general direction is. If you read the transcript or you were here in person, you’d see that there’s a tilt here. And the tilt is that there’s a federal law and we expect licensees to follow the federal law. It gives brick-and-mortar locations direction to do the right thing.”
And what is the right thing? According to Alamo, “If you knowingly break federal law or are aware of someone breaking federal law, they should be doing something toward that. The board was clear and I think the conversation we had on that by the commission gave a tilt in that same direction. I think that’s what people need to glean from the discussion.”
No smoking policies in guest rooms are pretty much standard in all resorts, but casino floors are except from the no smoking ban. So does that mean that someone sitting next to you at the blackjack table can now fire up a doobie? Will casino staff be on patrol looking for pot smokers sitting at slot machines?
Massachusetts allows recreational marijuana usage and also has casino resorts. Their approach is quite sensible and is really the only good option. Guest rooms of course have a no smoking policy, but so do the casino floors. This easily solves the pot smoking issue and fixes a long-time health annoyance for non-smoking casino gamblers.
As far as Nevada is concerned, the regulatory process is a work in progress according to Alamo. He believes that each company will develop their own pre-employment drug testing policies and also how they will inform guests of a marijuana use policy on their property. But for now, the Nevada Gaming Control Board and Gaming Commission are taking the stance that pot smoking is illegal.