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Nevada Gaming Commission Bans Marijuana Usage on Casino Grounds

Although the state of Nevada has opened the doors for legal marijuana possession, usage and sales inside its borders, there are still laws making it illegal to smoke in public. As far as individual businesses go, they are free to set their own rules regarding partaking of weed. For casinos around the state, however, their regulatory body has made their decision.

The Nevada Gaming Commission last week decided that, even though it is legal to use marijuana in the state, consumption of AND possession of the drug on casino grounds would not be allowed. The discussion, which lasted for more than an hour, talked about several aspects of marijuana, including its current federal status (illegal), before rendering the decision. Marijuana’s status on federal statutes as a Schedule 1 controlled substance weighed heavy on the board members in setting a mandate that would provide the gaming industry with a distinct separation from an illegal substance.

Those discussions haven’t stopped, however, as the NGC decides whether they will need to codify their actions and just how wide to toss their net. “We’ve got some work to do in terms of distilling what is going to be the policy and how it should be manifested,” NGC member Terry Johnson commented. “Is it going to be sufficient to make policy-type pronouncements or is it going to be necessary to adopt rules that put everyone on notice as to what the requirements and expectations are?”

As of now, the guidelines from the NGC are that there is to be absolutely no smoking of marijuana by any employee or guest on casino grounds or in the hotel. Furthermore, gaming licensees (casinos) must not host shows, conventions or gatherings that promote using, selling, or growing marijuana and “should not” form any business partnerships nor finance any companies or individuals involved in the marijuana industry and vice versa. For all purposes, a stone wall has been set between casinos and the marijuana industry, at least while federal law still criminalizes the sale and usage of the drug.

Marijuana and poker (not to mention other drugs like cocaine, amphetamines and MDMA, or Ecstasy) have had a long association. The usage of marijuana relaxes many people and allows a person (perhaps in their own beliefs) to have a clear mind in making complex decisions on the poker table. It is something that is pointed out in an excellent article on by writer Derrick Oliver Dewan.

In his article “The Secret History of Cannabis at the World Series of Poker,” Dewan talked to three-time WSOP bracelet winner Dutch Boyd and 2006 WSOP champion Bryan Micon regarding their views on the usage of marijuana. Micon admitted to Dewan that he was high en route to winning his bracelet. “It calms me down in big tournament spots like that one,” Micon explained. “It helps me think things through clearly in the face of pressure. In that spot every decision matters, every chip counts. The weed relaxes me. Some people believe marijuana impairs or clouds your judgement. To each their own, I guess.”

Boyd told Dewan that marijuana usage was prevalent on the tournament circuit in the past but even more today. Back when he first started, “I’d be one of those guys running out to the parking lots during breaks, smoking it up,” Boyd is quoted as saying. Now, “It’s not talked about much, but it’s pretty pervasive in the poker culture. Marijuana is part of poker. If you’re ever on the tournament trail and stop in a Tunica hotel room during a World Series of Poker circuit event or in Los Angeles for a stop on the World Poker Tour, just walk down the halls and it’s everywhere. It smells like weed. It’s part of the game’s culture.”

While there seems to be popular consensus for marijuana usage in casinos (at least from poker players), it is plain from the decision of the NGC that it is expressly verboten for now. With the current political climate in Washington, DC, and an Attorney General who is looking to increase prosecution of marijuana usage rather than decrease it, that is something that isn’t bound to change anytime soon.

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