The Basics of Marijuana Regulation

Eight regulations that you should be familiar with before you take that first hit.

By Cassidy Leslie. University of Nevada, Reno


This past election year, Nevada citizens voted yes on the Question 2 ballot, which proposed the legalization of government-regulated marijuana.

Now that weed is legal, it’s also taxed and regulated; unfortunately though, many tourists (and Nevadans) don’t have any idea what those regulations look like. It’s incredibly important that anyone who plans to participate in the consumption of marijuana knows the rules in order to stay safe and legal.

As a college student, I’ve seen and heard many of my peers raving about the law passing. I also vividly remember, before the law was passed, when I was young freshman three years ago, walking from class to my dorm room and having strangers stop and ask me to sign a petition to legalize weed. Personally, I never understood why people were fighting so hard to keep weed illegal, or why anyone would stop a random girl to sign something that might change the law. My thoughts were always along the lines of, “If it’s illegal, don’t do it. If it’s legal, and you want to do it, then do it.”

Honestly, despite being near California and Colorado, my political opinion on weed has always been apathetic, at best. It really just didn’t matter to me.

What to Expect if Your State Just Legalized Weed

Image via BBC

Then, during the presidential election, I had to learn to care, because I figured I needed to pick a side. As I read the description for the law on the sample ballot, I thought to myself, “Why not make it legal? Almost everything else in Nevada is. Just tax it like tobacco and regulate it like alcohol.”

Then, the second Tuesday in November came and the ballots were counted. While some were despondent over the results of the general election, just as many, if not more, were ecstatic about Nevada’s decision to become the seventh state to legalize marijuana.

After the law’s passage, I decided to familiarize myself with its tenets, such as when it would come into effect, how would it affect my life and who would be legally allowed to use, sell and grow it. What I found, in its detail of regulation and surfeit of information, took me by surprise, as I discovered that I was ill informed as to the new law’s manifold stipulations.

After I took the time to find answers to my questions, I was later doubly shocked to find that my fellow Nevadans shared a similarly large lacunae when it came to marijuana regulation.

Since then, I’ve had conversations with family, friends, professors and strangers about the legalization of weed. Some of these conversations helped inform me; others taught me just how few people knew what they voted for.

Even though these regulations are specific to Nevada, they represent the norm in marijuana bureaucracy. And, since apparently no one in my state knew what they were doing when they voted to decriminalize weed, I figured it would be helpful to share some commonsense stipulations that you can expect in most states that allow weed usage.

Here are eight regulations that you can expect to encounter if you’re legally smoking weed.

1. Under 21? It’s Still Illegal

Just like alcohol, the legal age limit for consuming marijuana is 21. Concurrently, it is also illegal to use or sell to someone under the legal age. This age restriction does not pertain to users of medical marijuana.

As with alcohol, there are a whole host of people arguing that twenty-one is too old, and that eighteen-year-olds should be able to smoke. As smoking weed is generally much safer than drinking alcohol, their cries may not be unfounded. However, as with so many of these regulations, state governments are going to have to learn to walk before they can run, and baby steps are better than no steps at all.

2. A DUI Is Still a DUI

Because weed is a substance that changes the mindset, and therefore physical capacity, of the person consuming it, smoking pot and getting behind the wheel is dangerous, and therefore forbidden.

Just like with alcohol, there is no prohibition on smoking and then taking an Uber or getting a ride, so feel free to pre-game or just plain old walk. But, do not smoke and drive, ever. Especially if you are a proponent of weed, someone who has worked tirelessly for its legalization, don’t shoot your cause in the foot by irresponsibly smoking and then getting into a car crash. Personal liberty is one thing, but when the lives and rights of others are involved, there is no excuse for moronic behavior.

3. Not All Weed Is Legal

What? Surprised? Most of my friends and I sure were. It turns out that you cannot purchase weed from just anyone or anywhere and assume it’s legal.

If it’s not from a Nevada licensed dispensary, then the use is still prohibited. The businesses that receive a license to sell will be regulated through the state government, and they will prominently display their permits. Do not be tricked into buying from illegal dispensaries, especially when it’s so easy to buy from legal ones.

4. Consumption Is Restricted by Area

It’s illegal to consume weed in public, on federal land or in a vehicle. Also, due to federal regulations, smoking weed is also forbidden in most hotels and casinos, even though the smoking of tobacco is allowed.

That being said, if you visit a major city in a state that has legalized weed, chances are you’ll smell some delicious aromas as you walk the streets.

Even though weed consumption is illegal in public, it’s a notoriously hard to enforce rule, and one that might even be subject to further relaxation in the future. Still, for the time being, know that smoking in public is still forbidden, and that “Everyone else is doing it” has never really gone over well with the cops, so save yourself the trouble.

5. Purchase Limits

A customer at a dispensary can purchase up to one ounce of marijuana, or one-eighth of concentrate for usage. Don’t quote me on this, but this also feels like a regulation that may be relaxed in time.

States that are rolling out decriminalization programs are obviously going to want to take things slowly, which is probably an intelligent decision.

What to Expect if Your State Just Legalized Weed

Image via Green Piece

But, since overdosing on weed is not a thing, and state governments are already making a pretty penny on marijuana taxation, look to see these weight restrictions loosen over time. As with the age limit clause, this regulation also does not pertain to medical users.

6. Open Container

Just like with alcohol, if the substance is being transported, then the container must be sealed. Also, there cannot be a minor in the vehicle with you, which is kind of a big stipulation.

Given that you can only buy a small amount of weed at a time, and there are specific circumstances under which you can transport it back to your house, it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes before the weed delivery business (UberSmokes? AmazonDime?) begins to hit its stride.

7. Big Brother Is Watching

All cultivating, manufacturing, testing, transportation and sale of marijuana will be controlled on the state level. The state government will also control which businesses get a license to sell, as well as inspect said businesses for violations of the code set forth by the state of Nevada.

In other words, if you were buying weed from your buddy before Question 2 passed, it’s just as illegal now as it was back then. Marijuana now belongs to the state, and you have to go through the red tape if you want to get it.

8. Tax Time

In addition to the licensing fees and penalties that will first pay for the regulation and production of weed, as a supplementary form of generating revenue, Nevada has added an excise tax of 15 percent on all sales of marijuana. Any leftover revenue from the taxes, fees and penalties will go to the State Distributive School Account, though stifle your cheers, because as the state lottery has proven, promising money to the school system by way of sin tax has a proven track record of failing to work.

So, if you plan to visit Nevada to partake in some legalized marijuana, make sure do your research first. Check out Regulate Marijuana Nevada for the full initiative, Ballotpedia for more about the approval of the law and PotGuide.com for an easy, detailed article on marijuana regulations.