As Nevada nears the expected July 1st start date for its emergent recreational marijuana program, tourists, 21 years and older, will be able buy pot while visiting Las Vegas and other Nevada cities. Nevada officials are hoping this will make the state even friendlier to tourists, and those in the cannabis industry agree.
Nevada is one of eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana. It already had legal medical pot. Medical dispensaries started opening in 2015. The state now has 55, mostly in Las Vegas or surrounding Clark County.
Attitudes regarding marijuana regulation have also changed as other states (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Alaska) have passed their own laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Even though marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, and state lawmakers are cautious about running afoul of the Justice Department, voters, on the other hand, have forged ahead. The public opinion tipping point may have occurred as 56% of US voters surveyed said they would support legalization.
Colorado and Washington have fully legalized cannabis for recreational use since 2014, so with larger state populations, it would seem logical that those states would be bigger markets for cannabis. But those with knowledge of the marijuana industry believe that Nevada, and Vegas in particular, represents an even greater opportunity. According to a survey by Love Home Swap, the Las Vegas Strip attracted over 39 million tourists annually, making it the most visited tourist attraction in the world over both the Eiffel Tower and Times Square. If even a small percentage of tourists buy cannabis in Vegas, the numbers will be huge. In the not too distant future, we could see annual cannabis market in Vegas growing to anywhere between $500 million to $1 billion.
Despite rules against smoking pot in hotel rooms or outdoors, legal marijuana may provide an extra incentive for tourists. Already known for some of the world’s best hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, and entertainment, and now we’ll have hopefully become known for the best cannabis experience as well.
“I think Las Vegas has the potential of being the new cannabis tourists center in the United States, overtaking Colorado, if not in actual sales, but in perception.”