Nevada committee exploring whether casinos should allow marijuana conventions

Gov. Brian Sandoval chairs the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee, discussing recreational marijuana and the casino industry. (Nathan O'Neal | KSNV)

Gaming industry leaders and Governor Brian Sandoval are exploring new ways to regulate interactions between casino properties and Nevada’s new marijuana industry.

One of the key issues the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee is grappling with is whether casinos should be allowed to host marijuana conventions and in what capacity.

Earlier this month, Las Vegas was host to one of the largest marijuana business trade shows in the world; MJBizCon drew 18,000 to the Las Vegas Convention Center for a week.

“Frankly, Las Vegas is the international destination where this industry can gather on this scope and scale,” said Cassandra Farrington, one of the founders of MJBizCon.

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However, the top brass of the casino industry and Gov. Sandoval are questioning if hosting marijuana conventions puts casino properties at risk – since the feds still classify pot as a dangerous drug.

“I didn't know that it was such a large convention in terms of having 18,000 attendees and the economic impact on that,” said Sandoval, adding that he would still like some input from the U.S. Justice Department.

Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo said the issue has been cut and dry.

“On one hand, you’ve got the marijuana industry and on the other hand, you’ve got the gaming industry. The two shall not be directly intertwined,” said Alamo.

However, following a five-hour-long hearing Wednesday, Alamo said he had a slight change of heart when it comes to the issue of marijuana conventions.

“I always felt that was an impossibility – to be able to police that—I changed because I think there is a way,” said Alamo, adding that one possible compromise would be to ensure there is no sale or possession of pot at a convention on casino property.

“The gaming industry realizes that the marijuana industry is here to stay. They just have to figure out how to deal with it,” said Nevada State Sen. Tick Segerblom.

The committee is expected to meet again possibly in February. Sandoval wants to see policy recommendations ironed out by then.

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