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Time to Leave Las Vegas, Gaming Commish Tells Cannabis Trade Shows

August 28, 2017
(skodonnell/iStock)
Nevada gaming officials have long forbidden marijuana use in casinos. But an advisory floated last week threatens to wipe out the cannabis industry’s biggest convention in Las Vegas, as well as a number of smaller seminars and trade shows.

The Gaming Commission strongly 'discouraged' casinos from hosting shows or conferences that promote cannabis.

Though no official vote was taken nor policy established, the five-member Nevada Gaming Commission during its monthly meeting Aug. 24 unanimously agreed that casino licensees should be “discouraged” from hosting cannabis-related trade shows or conferences in casino convention spaces and ballrooms.

“The marijuana industry and the gaming industries are two different industries and the two will not meet,” said commission chairman Tony Alamo. Alamo cited marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law. “If licensees take that and move backwards from there I think they’re going to find themselves in the right place.”

The idea of pushing cannabis conventions out of Nevada casinos could threaten the annual MJ Biz Conference, the industry’s largest trade show. The even has been held in Las Vegas since 2012. Last year’s edition, held at the Rio All Suite Casino and Hotel, drew upwards of 10,000 attendees. This year’s show is expected to welcome more than  14,000 this year at the Las Vegas Convention Center, according to event organizers.

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MJ Business Daily CEO Cassandra Farrington said her company wasn’t given a heads-up by the commission that the “strong stance” would take place Thursday.

'There is no activated product' at the MJ Biz show. 'We're a business-to-business trade show, like World of Concrete.'
Cassandra Farrington, CEO of MJ Business Daily

But Farrington, whose Denver-based organization hosts the annual show in Las Vegas, argued that the MJ Biz Conference would still fall into compliance with federal law and gaming venues because vendors do not sell consumable marijuana products.

“We are a business-to-business trade show like World of Concrete or many other conventions that come through Las Vegas,” Farrington said. “The people who exhibit at our shows are grow light manufacturers, seed-to-sale software producers, packaging experts, lawyers and accountants. There is no activated product for sale on the show floor at all.”

The MJ Biz Conference isn’t the only Las Vegas cannabis convention threatened by Thursday’s gaming commission meeting. There’s a cannabis conference, seminar, or expo practically every month, and many are held in casino resorts. There’s a Cannabis Career Fair in September, a Cannabis Nurses Network conference in October, and a cannabis processing facility design seminar in November. Pharmacology University is sponsoring a two-day medical cannabis seminar at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in October.

Dante Picazo, CEO of Dallas-based Pharmacology, said a focus on medical marijuana education will be key to ensuring the group’s success. Like Farrington, Picazo said he’s confident the convention will comply with federal regulations, because his estimated 1,500 attendees will be encouraged not to smoke or ingest the plant during the show.

“This conference is completely medical and completely about education,” Picazo said.

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Adding Drama to Nevada’s Big Summer

Thursday’s revelation continued a turbulent summer in for cannabis-casino regulations surrounding the launch of recreational marijuana sales in Nevada on July 1.

On June 7, Wynn Las Vegas removed CEO Isaac Dietrich of Denver-based social media platform MassRoots from the casino as Dietrich attempted to sign up for the casino giant’s Wynn Resorts’ Red Card program, allegedly due to his involvement in the marijuana industry.

Almost one month later, on July 3, organizers from Los Angeles-based MJIC Capital said the World of Cannabis Convention, which brought over 2,000 investors and industry professionals to the Palms last November, would not be returning to Las Vegas this year.

Alamo reiterated Monday that commission suggestions regarding casinos and marijuana industry business relationships were not official regulations, but rather items to be taken on a “situation by situation” basis at the discretion of individual gaming venues. As long as gaming operators comply with federal law, they’ve “accomplished what they need to do,” he said.

“We’re not here to micromanage the gaming business,” Alamo said. “At the end of the day, whatever they do, they have to set out to not allow the breaking of federal law within their sidewalks.”

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Chris Kudialis's Bio Image

Chris Kudialis

Chris Kudialis is a Las Vegas–based cannabis reporter. He has written articles for the Los Angeles Times, Las Vegas Sun, Charlotte Observer, Houston Chronicle, Detroit Free Press, and Brazil's Rio Times, among other metropolitan dailies.

View Chris Kudialis's articles

  • Open Minds

    Please, what sanctimonious hypocrites – the Mafia founded Las Vegas. In addition, there are hookers doing business everywhere in these casinos.

    • Terry Hodges

      Maybe the commission needs to get American take that info and move in the correct direction FORWARD not backward!

    • 360dunk

      Yes, but hookers aren’t listed on Schedule I as being dangerous. The obvious solution that would fix multiple injustices would be to declassify the plant. That would open the door to allow dispensaries to use banks like any other business…..not to mention, free the poor souls who are in prison for a ‘dangerous’ drug that’s not at all dangerous.

  • 360dunk

    “We’re not here to micromanage the gaming business,” Alamo said.

    Yet there you are, Tony Alamo, using your influence on the Gaming Commission to micromanage both the gaming AND cannabis industries. Stop using the Schedule I reasoning….every person on earth knows the plant does not deserve to be labeled as such and that its days on the list are numbered. No, Tony Alamo, you phony….the real reason you’re sticking your nose in this is the desire to protect the liquor and casino industries. The more gamblers who smoke weed, the fewer who get drunk.

  • julioinglasses

    I was a lifelong sewage professional, we had no problem hosting industry-wide conventions anywhere, even though our stock in trade would be illegal to bring along with us!

  • julius

    Potheads boycott all casinos!

    • quirk

      Thank you Julius! Potheads please stay out of casinos. Please do your drugs elsewhere. Thank you

      • calvet11

        Are you kidding me!!!!! You actually think a little cannabis is horrible, Do you not know what go’s on in hotels and connected casinos? I am not a “pot head” any more than you are an alky, tobacco smokeing, gambleing SOB.

        • quirk

          Look, I was simply agreeing with Julius that potheads should boycott casinos. I can deal with a drunk or two at the blackjack table but I don’t need some couch-locked stoners trying to decide whether to hit or stay on a fourteen. They just screw up the count. Peace out

      • BenSamizdat

        Yet alcohol is a drug called a Depressant and thus everybody consuming this drug is a “Druggie”. Alcohol the drug kills 33 million people every year according to reported stats, and unreported deaths jack that figure up even higher. Let’s do the math – 100 MILLION DEATHS from this DRUG called Alcohol every 3 years, around 1 BILLION DEATHS in the past 250 years, and in all of that time less than 20 documented deaths attributed to Cannabis. Sounds like you are endorsing the wrong drug. Alamo knows that if he and his krakocracy takes a stand against Alcohol the DRUG they lose 90% of their business, but thats what hypocrites do best: make excuses for their own bad behavior while pointing fingers at nothing.

  • calvet11

    Please tell me that these five di*kheads are not turning down over 1 billion $ in business.

  • Mike hunt

    How many potheads gamble in casinos though? Like isent that just another way The Man steals your money?

    They are scared to loose buisness

  • Jayne Dhoe

    CIA-linked mobsters. Las Vegas is a shithole anyway. The industry should move to where it is appreciated and served well. Vegas is a dying hellhole filled with slime. Not a good place.

  • BenSamizdat

    As long as gaming operators comply with federal law, they’ve “accomplished what they need to do,” Alamo said. Since NOW they are suddenly interested in following all Federal laws, they will immediately cease all internet gambling, illegal per the Wire Act and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Not only are Alamo’s cronies breaking all sorts of Federal laws, they are violating State laws making knowingly transmitting or receiving gambling information over the Internet a felony. Alamo hides behind the Commerce Clause doctrine to justify the fact that his gang is commiting felonies every single day. Bookmaking on College sports is technically illegal too, as is forms of Advanced Deposit Wagering, Parimutual Wagering, betting on Horse Racing, profiting from Charitable gambling and other forms of gambling Alamo engages in. Until JFK, the Feds had a law dictating how much of the “Take” a Casino could make, and it was typically around 51%, so 49% of the money flowing in actually went home with gamblers. These laws are also still on the books yet are not being enforced, with Casinos now recieving around 85% of the Take, which is OBSCENE. Alamo is a snake. He doesn’t care that the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment technically made Medical Marijuana Federally LEGAL on a year-by-year basis, or that the Cole-Memorandum still on the books establishes that Recreational Marijuana is quasi-legal due to Estoppel and jurisprudance. All Alamo cares about is this: NONE OF THESE POTHEADS ARE GIVING ME BAGS FULL OF MONEY SO SCREW THEM.

  • Shona Davies

    Cannabis is the best medicine and i feel better using it. I have forgotten what means muscle spasms. Thanks to AnnCannMed.

    • Bob

      Fake poster?
      That profile image belongs to a woman called Erin Bender who is a travel writer.