Las Vegas Hempfest: A Look Inside Nevada’s Marijuana Future

Las Vegas HempFestMy continuing travels to some of the more interesting marijuana legalization events around the country (and one coming up in Jamaica) brought me this past weekend to Las Vegas to attend the 2nd Annual Las Vegas Hempfest on Saturday.

The Las Vegas Hempfest, which licensed the name from the original Seattle Hempfest, was held outside the city’s convention center with two stages, lots of good music, and scores of industry exhibitors. Tommy Chong was the star of the show, and received a lifetime achievement award from the Hempfest organizers.

Our friends at Freedom Leaf, who were co-sponsors of the event this year, were in charge of lining up speakers for the day-long series of policy panels that were held a short walk away, inside the convention center. Most attendees, of course, are there to party and enjoy the music, but some are also interested in learning more about the issue of legalizing marijuana, and how that change in policy will impact the culture.

The topics this year included medical/nutritional issues, a nursing panel, cultivation techniques, an industry/finance panel, a media panel and an activism panel. I was pleased to be on a legal penal with Freedom Leaf co-founder Richard Cowan (also a NORML board member and a former NORML national director); and San Diego attorney Ken Sobel.

The event showcased all things marijuana, and provided those in the soon-to-be-legal marijuana market in Nevada (medical use is already legal, and the first few dispensaries have recently opened) an opportunity to introduce their newest products and services, and to begin to build, or extend the reach of their brand to yet another state in a growing list of pot-friendly venues.

Las Vegas, the destination with the nickname of “Sin City” and the slogan of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” suggesting that tourists can enjoy more personal freedom here than in their home town, including gambling and other sometimes naughty options, seems like a natural environment for marijuana legalization. And with a good voter turnout in November of 2016, the state will finally live-up to its reputation.

Tithing To Benefiting NORML

And I would be remiss not to thank the event’s sponsors for generously donating to NORML a dollar from each ticket sold to this event. It was their way of thanking NORML for the decades of hard work that made it possible to finally achieve these recent political successes, an example of tithing that one would hope will be adopted by many more players in the new Green Rush over the coming months and years.

It requires resources to end prohibition, and to enact new laws, either by voter initiative (in those states that offer that option) or legislatively, and these new businesses that are profiting from legalization have a moral obligation to invest a little of those profits back into the movement, and the groups, that have made these changes possible.

So as we head into 2016, the year that should be the breakout year for legalization, let’s continue the strategy that has brought us to where we are today – a state-based strategy that with each new legalization state brings additional support in Congress – and that will, within a few years, permit us to repeal federal prohibition as well, leaving the states free to enact whatever marijuana policy they want, without federal interference.

Full Legalization On the Nevada Ballot in 2016

The sponsors of the Nevada legalization initiative, the Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Nevada, have already gathered the required number of signatures and have been assured of a place on the 2016 November ballot.

Under the proposal, effective January 1, 2017, it would be legal for an adult to possess one ounce of marijuana and, if they live further than 25 miles from a licensed retail outlet, to cultivate up to six plants in the home. And starting in 2018, there would be retail outlets where consumers could legally purchase their marijuana and marijuana products.

Unnecessary Restrictions on Home Cultivation

This unfortunate 25-miles requirement before one is allowed to grow their own marijuana shows the influence the newly legal marijuana industry is beginning to have in the legalization movement. Of course retail sellers would prefer that all marijuana users purchase their marijuana from one of the licensed stores, but unless polling shows the inclusion of home-cultivation would cause the proposal to fail, personal cultivation is a right that adult consumers should have. Most will not elect to spend the time and resources required to grow their own pot, but having that option will keep the industry responsive to the legitimate needs of consumers for a product that is high quality, safe and affordable.

Commercial Licensing Starting in 2018

Other provisions of the initiative would, beginning in 2018, license commercial growers, kitchens, testing facilities, distributors and retailers. Those currently holding medical marijuana retail licensees would for 18 months be the only parties eligible to apply for a retail recreational license; and, in a new twist not seen before, those holding a current alcohol distribution license would have a similar 18-month period during which only they would be eligible for a marijuana distribution license!

The initiative would impose a 15 percent excise tax, on top of the existing 6.5 percent sales tax (and the possibility of up to an 1.25 local tax), and local governments would retain their right to impose zoning restrictions on marijuana businesses.

So obviously this is another example of the growing influence of the newly legal marijuana industry. It is fair to say the pending legalization proposal in Nevada is slanted more to please the industry, than it is to please the consumer.

Not Perfect, But A Big Step Forward

But as NORML has done with previous legalization initiatives, all of which include some disappointing provisions, so long as the initiative ends marijuana prohibition and stops the practice of arresting marijuana smokers, and establishes a legal market where consumers can buy their marijuana, we will almost certainly support the Nevada proposal, warts and all.

And we will be back, once it has passed, to try to make further improvements to assure that marijuana consumers are treated fairly in all areas of their lives, including ending job discrimination, resolving child custody issues and requiring a showing of impairment for a DUID conviction. Policy change occurs incrementally, and it requires commitment and persistence.

If we should hold-out for the perfect law (and we would differ on what a perfect law would look like), the criminal prohibition of marijuana would continue for many more years, along with the continued arrests of hundreds of thousands of marijuana smokers each year.


This column originally was posted on


6 thoughts

  1. Note: if the ounce were #16-presifted bwdflauer for 25-mg vape tokes, that would be 1132 tokes, but if you handsift your own after purchase (and remove flowerPot and teaPot material) expect at least 900– enough for a year in my case but o.k. I aint sick.

    Disappointment: “Regulate like Alcohol” language– they shoulda worded it “To Regulate like Basil, Marjoram, OREGANO, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Thyme”. Present-day methods of “Regulating” alcohol produce yearly death toll of 2,500,000 worldwide according to WHO May 2011 estimate.

    Cannabis is an herb, not a drug. It can be adequately Regulated by everyone either vaping with the cla$$y high tech equipment or using a flexdrawtube one-hitter
    via the easy-learn distant-flame vapetoke technique.

    Agree with Keith/NORML: vote yes now and keep offering amendments subsequently. Maybe each dispensary could require customers to prove they own a one-hitter or buy on for $1.29.

  2. News to me about the 25 mile requirement for growing your own plants. That’s what it is for medical, but unless I misread the initiative or that it’s somehow been changed after qualifying for the ballot, with full legalization, adults should be able to grow their own personal use plants without any stipulations regarding dispensaries.

  3. Keith, a lot of good people “are also interested in learning more about the issue of legalizing”. It occurred to me that a victimless crime is actually unconstitutional because there is no witness to any wrong doing having been done. The 6th Amendment says: “to be confronted with the witnesses against him”.

  4. The irony is “What happens with weed” does NOT stay with weed… we are the feet of a plant that has evolved symbiotically with our ancestors and our endocannabinoid systems to create one of the most useful, synergistic plants ever known to human kind… so that even recreational use is therapeutic.

  5. Any kind of legal framework that regulates production, supply and consumption is worth voting for. The precise rules can be changed or relaxed once it has been passed but I think the first possible chance at a legal framework should not be missed in any state or country. The ‘Like Alcohol’ tag just helps the public get their heads round the complex issues involved but obviously cannabis and alcohol are 2 different substances and not usually equivalent.

    Home cultivation really poses no health risk that is not there with growing your own vegetables (In this respect cannabis is NOT like Alcohol). Obviously there need to be limits – especially since large grows are actually very valuable and a tempting target for robberies. There also needs to be safety guidelines on BHO and electrical safety for indoor grows etc (In this way cannabis IS like Alcohol).

    I saw this article which may help the undecided see cannabis legalisation as a force for good (Really worth a read and very inspiring !):

  6. Thx @Julian, The cannabis species has self-bred, self-pro-evolved to better synergize with humans whose turds contained growth and learning hormones the rooting young handfplants found delicious.

    Lettuce briefly wacktrack thru the History of Hysteria: since first control of fire (-1.8-mil.y.?) human women had been laboriously dragging hempstalks, sometimes with bwdflauer still aboard, to the house, to use as

    (a) Cookstovefuel– and EVERYONE including kids inhaled the Psychosmoke– or

    (b) Roofthatching etc.–hence modern “Riefer” as in Roofover, to hotbox the $moke for indoor breathing. “In the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat baked goods.”

    Under way, seeds fell off, some landing– gue$$ where– in human turdpiles (or charitably, compost areas) where the young plants rooted and devoured fertilizer full of human hormone propaganda telling them how/where to progenerate children who would ca$h in on a turdfall of genero$ity by residing near and collaborating with big standlegged humans. (Can we turn this into a rhymed doggerel lyric everyone will understand?)

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