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Public consumption in Las Vegas among questions as recreational marijuana sales begin

Posted at 5:29 PM, Jul 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-06 20:32:45-04

Now that recreational marijuana is for sale around Nevada, plenty of questions remain for locals as well as tourists.

The group behind Question 2, which legalized marijuana for those 21 and older in Nevada, has launched a new education campaign called Know the Facts Nevada to provide some of those answers.

One of the major questions: Where can marijuana legally be consumed?

At this point, it can only be used on private property. It is illegal to consume pot in public places like casinos, hotels, bars, parks and sidewalks.

"Know that just because you have a vape pen and it looks inconspicuous that if you're walking around a casino property or some place where you're not allowed to have it, that is still a crime and you can still be ticketed or fined for that," said Scot Rutledge, campaign manager for Know the Facts Nevada. "Don't think because it's inconspicuous that it's still allowed."

Public consumption is a major issue in Las Vegas with 43 million tourists just last year.

But the number of places where people can smoke marijuana may change in the coming months and years. The conversation has already begun that would lead to legal places where locals and tourists can consume pot.

"I think we'll probably get some sort of ordinance developed in [Clark County and city of Las Vegas] sometime this year," Rutledge said. "Then hopefully we'll see both consumption lounges and events that will allow consumption to become available to both tourists and locals next year."

People have been smoking marijuana in public places, such as outside bars, despite it not being legal.

"I've already heard some anecdotal stories from elected officials, even, who have seen people consuming marijuana in public, and they understand that this is going to continue to be an issue until we give people a place to go," Rutledge said.

In meetings with Clark County's Green Ribbon Panel, Rutledge said members of the gaming community were "very vocal" that the issue needed to be addressed.

Some tourists may think they can smoke pot in a parked rental car at a casino or other property, but the regulations are similar as to why smoking tobacco is not allowed in a rental, such as cleaning fees. 

"For that hotel guest who has been told they can't smoke in their room, that doesn't mean they can smoke in their rental car in the parking garage either," Rutledge said.

The rules don't just apply to the car's drivers.

"As far as vehicles are concerned, passengers are not allowed to consume, obviously drivers are not either," Rutledge said. "It's a safe bet that you shouldn't be sitting in a parked car to consume either, whether it be at a casino or on the street in front of your friend's house."

That leads to another concern -- will there be an increase in driving under the influence incidents now that recreational marijuana is for sale? Rutledge said the data in Colorado does not support an increase overall in marijuana DUIs, adding that it's negligible especially when compared to other states.

"There's a recent study that used a control state like Tennessee and compared it to Colorado and Washington and saw that there was no difference in the number of people that were arrested for marijuana DUIs," Rutledge said.

Know the Facts notes on its website that people should wait at least six hours before operating a vehicle after smoking marijuana and perhaps longer if eating an edible.

"Edibles react differently to different people so it's better to not eat edibles and drive," Rutledge said.

It's also better to not travel with it if heading out of state.

"If you bought some marijuana while you were visiting Las Vegas, you should dispose of it before you head to the airport," he said.

Another concern, especially among locals, is regarding drug testing.

"You should make sure you understand your employer's rules and HR policy when it comes to consuming policy," he said. "Passing Question 2 didn't change this and employers still have the right to drug test."

For additional details on what recreational marijuana legalization means for Las Vegas and the state at large, check out KnowTheFactsNV.com as well as the state's website on marijuana.

KnowTheFactsNV.com gave permission to use images included in the above video.