Nevada Casino Industry Considering New Policies on Legal Medical Marijuana

Fourteen years after the State of Nevada passed a law legalizing medical marijuana, state lawmakers recently passed a bill which would allow up to 66 medical marijuana outlets in the state. Though no one has suggested casinos become one of these outlets, the gaming resorts must now craft policies on whether such drugs can be consumed on their grounds.

At present, the Nevada State Gaming Control Board is developing its own list of concerns and questions when it comes to medical marijuana. Hotel human resources departments and corporate offices for the gaming companies must discuss similar contingencies.

The sheer number of situations such a new law might create are countless. Employees both old and new might have prescriptions for such drugs. Local gamblers, out-of-state tourists, and foreign high rollers all might consider using treatments inside the resorts.

This presents a whole range of questions that policy makers with the state and corporations must consider.

Is medical marijuana to be considered like any other prescription drug?
Would it be a violation of state law to allow patrons to consumer medical marijuana in their hotel room?
Should new policies be written for existing workers who must undergo drug screenings?
Should new workers who require drug screenings be asked pertinent questions?

Nevada Businesses in Microcosm

In other words, a whole range of employee and customer policies must be reviewed, if the resorts industry in Nevada is going to be prepared for all contingencies. All of the gaming companies in the state will have to address the situation,  but the biggest employers have the most at stake.

MGM Resorts Considers New Policies

MGM Resorts International is one of a series of gaming companies in Nevada trying to devise medical marijuana policies. With 54,000 employees in Nevada spread throughout its 17 Silver State hotels, resorts, and casinos, MGM Resorts is the state’s biggest employer.

MGM Resorts International VP of Public Affairs Gordon Absher says this is a complicated issue for his company. When asked how MGM Resorts is approaching these questions, Absher said, “This new and very complex issue brings difficult questions on many fronts for us as Nevada’s largest private employer. Along with every other employer, we will continue to evaluate the implications of the state law as we review our policies.

Casinos Cannot Invest in Medical Marijuana Industry

One question may have been answered by gaming regulators already. Medical marijuana will not be a profit making opportunity for the gaming interests of Nevada. Nevada regulators have advised gaming companies not to invest in the new medical marijuana industry.

Financial analysts believe the sale of the prescribed drug is likely to be a lucrative endeavor, but Nevada authorities do not want casino operators to risk getting involved a sticky legal situation. When it is time for the commission to review a gaming license, ties to the medical marijuana industry will be investigated and used as part of the evaluation.

Federal Laws Still Apply

There’s a reason regulators take that stance: under federal law, marijuana is still considered illegal. In a time when the Las Vegas Strip gaming companies are already being pressured to open their books on high roller activities, Nevada’s government does not want casinos creating new reasons for federal authorities to look into their businesses. Becoming involved in the sale of medical marijuana could involve legal issues with federal authorities.

Nevada Banking System Staying Away

Other financial institutions are taking the same approach. Banks and credit card companies are staying away from the distribution of marijuana. These institutions fear federal prosecution.

Without a reliable distribution system, many people grow their own medical marijuana plants. Some get their drugs from caregivers who grow the plants, then give them away. In many cases, users are likely to get their medical needs met by illegal suppliers. Like other cases, prohibition does not stop the activity, but drives it underground.

Casinos Cannot Ignore New Laws

Whatever the case, the casino industry of Nevada will not be able to ignore the new laws. Simply avoiding financial ties with the production and sale of medical marijuana is not enough. Employees who qualify for a prescription, but who must undergo drug testing, already must refrain from using the medically-prescribed marijuana. If they were caught, they would be breaking federal law, so they would have to be fired.

For now, the current federal administration is giving people a pass on minor marijuana possession crimes. The current U.S. Justice Department does not prosecute such crimes. But when a new administration takes office in January 2017, it is possible the new Justice Department leaders will want to prosecute. Therefore, laws, regulations, and corporate policies must be in place by that time, at the latest.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on,, and

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