Nevada gaming panel frustrated by uncertain federal cannabis stance

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Nearly all 12 members of a gaming policy committee in Nevada – including Gov. Brian Sandoval – expressed frustration at the conclusion of an hours-long hearing Wednesday that was intended to get the state closer to a policy on whether casinos will be allowed to engage in cannabis commerce.

“If it sounds like I’m a little frustrated, it’s because I am, in not knowing the federal position in all of this,” Sandoval said near the end of the hearing.

He was referring to testimony from multiple industry experts, who all echoed the same overall message: There’s been no clear direction from the White House on whether it intends to continue the Obama-era hands-off policy for the burgeoning cannabis industry, or if the Trump Department of Justice may actually begin enforcing federal law and start prosecuting those in the marijuana business.

To date, the Trump administration has not issued a clear stance on the cannabis industry.

“I want to know the answer, one way or another, because I have to set policy,” Sandoval said.

The committee’s schedule is to issue recommendations to Sandoval by June 2018, but Sandoval said Wednesday he’d like to get recommendations by February.

Among those who testified before the committee was Marijuana Business Daily CEO Cassandra Farrington, who emphasized that the annual MJBizCon held in Las Vegas each November for the past four years is in strict compliance with state law – including the three years it was at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino before it moved to the Las Vegas Convention Center this year.

That resonated with at least one committee member, Tony Alamo, the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, who said he believes it’s clear that MJ business conventions don’t place casinos – like the Rio – at odds with federal law, as long as they’re strict about not allowing onsite consumption or sale of cannabis.