Tourists can now purchase medical marijuana in Las Vegas -- is recreational next?

By Sarah Feldberg / September 07, 2015

It's been 15 years since Nevada voters approved a ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana in the state, but it wasn't until August 24 that the first dispensary opened its doors in Clark County.

"We've been so busy, there are lines around the corner at some times of the day," said Euphoria Wellness Managing Director Darlene Purdy.

Located in southwest Las Vegas, the dispensary has seen more than 100 patients per day, according to Purdy, some of whom have been emotional about finally being able to purchase their medicine legally.

"Patients are so happy," Purdy said. "Some people have been waiting 15 years for this."

However, not all of Euphoria's customers are Nevada residents visiting a dispensary for the first time. Purdy says many customers are tourists who are registered medical marijuana patients at home. As long as they have a valid card and government-issued ID, out-of-state visitors are welcome to purchase medical marijuana during their Vegas vacation.

State Senator Tick Segerblom, who sponsored the bill that led to the legalization of dispensaries, said the state has set up the "gold standard" of medical marijuana programs. He adds that the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive so far.

"I haven't heard of anything negative," he said. "It took 15 years to get here, but there hasn't been one peep of the sky is falling. Everybody is on board with this thing."

Well, not quite everybody.

In May 2014, the Gaming Control Board sent a note to licensees saying, "... unless the federal law is changed, the Board does not believe investment or any other involvement in a medical marijuana facility or establishment by a person who has received a gaming approval or has applied for a gaming approval is consistent with the effective regulation of gaming."

In other words, Nevada casino and gaming companies should steer well clear of medical marijuana.

However, Segerblom has high hopes for the cannabis industry in Nevada, including the legalization of recreational marijuana for people over 21, which will appear as a ballot question in 2016.

"It's going to be be great for our industry, which is tourism," Segerblom said.

While he won't go as far as saying that recreational marijuana itself will draw more visitors to Las Vegas, which welcomed a record-setting 41.1 million people in 2014, he does think that once tourists are in Sin City, they'll be happy to add weed to their vacation vices.

"We have 40 million people a year," he said. "If 10% of those people went to a dispensary, watch out."

"Let's regulate it, let's tax it," Segerblom added. "We're known as the place you go to do things that you can't do elsewhere, so why not smoke a little pot, too?"