Cannabis in Nevada

2016 Legalization results by county. Counties with a majority of “yes” votes in green and counties with a majority of “no” votes in red.

Cannabis in Nevada became legal for recreational use effective January 1, 2017, having been legalized by ballot initiative in 2016. Medical marijuana use was legalized by ballot initiative in 2000, and has been available to licensed individuals in the state since shortly after that date. Nevada also licenses growers and distributors, and citizens of Nevada are banned from growing their own cannabis unless they live more than 25 miles from a licensed dispensary.

Prohibition (1923)[edit]

Nevada first banned cannabis in 1923, during a nationwide trend of states limiting the drug between 1911-1933.[1]

Medical use[edit]

Nevada Medical Marijuana Act (1998, 2000)[edit]

In 1998, Nevada voters approved the Nevada Medical Marijuana Act (Question 9) with 59% of the vote.[2] It was approved again in 2000 with 65% of the vote.[3] Because the initiative was a constitutional amendment it required approval in consecutive elections in order to become law.[4]

Medical use was officially legalized with the June 2001 passage of Assembly Bill 453, which took effect on October 1.[5]

Recreational use[edit]

Defelonization (2001)[edit]

Assembly Bill 453 – which legalized medical use of cannabis in Nevada – also contained a provision to make possession of up to one ounce a fine-only misdemeanor for first and second-time offenders. No criminal record would be imposed until a third offense.[5]

Prior to the passage of AB 453, Nevada was the only state in the U.S. for which possessing any amount of cannabis was a felony offense.[5]

Failed Legalization of Marijuana Amendment (2002)[edit]

In 2002, the Decriminalization of Marijuana Amendment (Question 9) was put on the ballot as a proposal to legalize and regulate the recreational use of cannabis in Nevada – but it was soundly defeated by a 39–61 margin.[6][7] Drug czar John P. Walters traveled to Nevada twice to campaign against the initiative.[8]

Nevada Regulation of Marijuana Initiative (2006)[edit]

In 2006, the Regulation of Marijuana Initiative (Question 7) was voted on by Nevada citizens. It unsuccessfully sought to amend the Nevada Revised Statutes to allow for up to one ounce of marijuana to be purchased by individuals 21 years of age or older in a regulated, controlled, and state-taxed system. The measure was defeated 56% against and 44% for.[9]

Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana (2016)[edit]

A bag of fresh bud purchased in Las Vegas

In 2016, the Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana (Question 2) was put before Nevada voters.[10] The measure, which appeared on the November 8, 2016 ballot, sought to legalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults over the age of 21.[11][12] The initiative did not include provisions for regulation beyond taxation, such as licensing retailers.[13]

Question 2 was opposed by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who donated $3.35 million to the campaign to defeat the initiative.[14] Adelson also purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal in December 2015, after which the editorial board reversed its earlier endorsement of the initiative.[15] Prior to the flip-flop, the Review-Journal supported legalization as far back as 2002 when it endorsed Question 9.[15]

Question 2 was approved on November 8 by a 54–46 margin.[16] Possession and consumption by adults became legal on January 1, 2017,[17][18] and on July 1 sales of recreational cannabis began.[19]


Driving a vehicle under the influence of cannabis (even for approved medical use) is illegal and depending on the kind of offence one will be penalized. The offender will be penalized with $400 fine, 2 days in jail, 48 – 96 hours of community service to $5000 fine and 1 – 6 years in prison depending on the first, second and third offence.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Richard Davenport-Hines (29 November 2012). The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Social History of Drugs. Orion Publishing Group. pp. 126–. ISBN 978-1-78022-542-5.
  2. ^ “Nevada Medical Marijuana Act, Question 9 (1998)”. Ballotpedia. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  3. ^ “Nevada Medical Marijuana Act, Question 9 (2000)”. Ballotpedia. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  4. ^ “Medical Marijuana Initiatives Pass In Colorado and Nevada; Californians Pass Initiative To Keep Non-Violent Drug Offenders Out Of Jail”. NORML. November 9, 2000. Retrieved June 2, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c “Nevada Defelonizes Pot Possession — State Eliminates Jail, Criminal Record for Minor Offenders; Legalizes Medical Marijuana for Seriously Ill”. NORML. June 7, 2001. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  6. ^ Rudolph Joseph Gerber (2004). Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 117–. ISBN 978-0-275-97448-0.
  7. ^ “Nevada Decriminalization of Marijuana Amendment, Question 9 (2002)”. Ballotpedia. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  8. ^ “Drug czar stumps against Nevada’s marijuana question”. Las Vegas Sun. October 10, 2002. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  9. ^ “Ballot Questions: Marijuana Legalization Fails in Colorado, Nevada; Ohio Passes Comprehensive Smoking Ban”. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. 8 November 2006. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  10. ^ Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana, Nevada Secretary of State, April 23, 2014, archived from the original on 2016-08-17, retrieved 2016-05-23
  11. ^ “Expert to speak on marijuana legalization in Fernley”, Reno Gazette-Journal, May 20, 2016
  12. ^ Ken Ritter (March 16, 2015), Nevada marijuana legalization gets official OK for 2016 ballot, Associated Press – via The Cannabist
  13. ^ Joe Schoenmann (April 15, 2016), After November, What’s Next For Recreational Marijuana In Nevada?, Nevada Public Radio/KNPR
  14. ^ Savchuk, Katia (November 9, 2016). “Billionaire Sean Parker Wins, Sheldon Adelson Loses On Marijuana Ballot Measures”. Forbes. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  15. ^ a b Sullum, Jacob (June 13, 2016). “The Anti-Pot Editorial That Cost $140 Million”. Reason. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  16. ^ Law & Order (2016-11-09). “Several states just legalized recreational marijuana”. Business Insider. Retrieved 2016-12-06.
  17. ^ Question 2 Passed in Nevada. Now what?, Henderson, Nevada: Connor & Connor PLLC, November 11, 2016
  18. ^ Colton Lochhead (November 9, 2016), “What you should know about Nevada’s new marijuana law”, Las Vegas Review-Journal
  19. ^ Robinson, Melia (July 1, 2017). “You can now buy legal marijuana in Nevada”. Business Insider. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  20. ^ steven (2016-05-12). “What Should You Know About DUI and Medical Marijuana in Nevada?”. Essence Cannabis Dispensary. Retrieved 2019-01-02.