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Cannabis Cup: Warning Of Federal Crackdown?


(AP Photo/John Locher)

Rick Cook, right, and Dalton Brown move a sign while setting up for the High Times Cannabis Cup festival, Friday, March 3, 2017, near Moapa, Nev.

In the end, it wasn’t the feds that shut down the Cannabis Cup in the Moapa desert last weekend – it was Mother Nature. 

High winds forced organizers to cancel day two of the event, which featured competitions, instructional seminars and concerts – all related to marijuana. 

That’s probably better than what some thought might happen after U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden in Las Vegas sent a letter to High Times magazine, which sponsored the event, reminding them that marijuana was still illegal under federal law.

Many thought the move was a sign of what's to come: A crackdown on states like Nevada that have legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana.

Joe Brezny is spokesman for the Las Vegas Cannabis Cup and formerly the voice of the legalization movement in Nevada, he told KNPR's State of Nevada that changes on the federal law would be "an utter and total nightmare." 

Here is why, according to Brezny, it is legal in Nevada to have and consume marijuana. So, the only way to shutdown the industry would be to close the supply side of the equation. 

"What they're talking about is: let's give a free pass to the cartels because people are allowed to have it, people are allowed to consume it, so they're going to get it, but let's kill the safe, regulated supplies," he said.

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Brezny pointed out that state law enforcement will follow state laws on this issue. He said he hopes the Trump administration takes a deeper look at what implications would exist should such a crackdown occur. 

Even before the letter from the U.S. attorney, Brezny said the organizers of the Cannabis Cup were already looking for ways to change the planned event, because rules surrounding recreational marijuana in Nevada are not yet set up.

A big issue is figuring out where the drug can be consumed. People can use it at home, but there are no rules for public consumption.

Brezny explained this is a big sticking point for a tourist-driven place like Las Vegas. Supporters of legalized marijuana and Nevada lawmakers are looking for a way to put up a wall between marijuana use and casinos. 

Casinos don't want to lose their gaming licenses because of drug use. 

“We need to proceed with caution on this," Brezny said, "The issue we run into is if it is something that is legal for people have and legal for people to buy and there is nowhere for them to consume it, they’re probably going to do it in some places we don’t want them to.”

State Senator Tick Segerblom (D) - NV., is purposing legislation to create consumption lounges, where people can smoke marijuana or eat marijuana edibles, away from gaming establishments. 

Segerblom's bill would also create a special event license to allow people to consume the drug at events like the Electronic Daisy Carnival or the Cannabis Cup.

Where the drug can be consumed is just one of the rules that needs to be worked out by Nevada lawmakers. Another issue, which might be one of the most difficult to figure out, is how to test for someone who is 'impaired' by marijuana.

Currently, the limit for marijuana in Nevada is two nanograms of THC metabolite, which Brezny calls "an arbitrary, low number" that is not the standard anywhere. 

The real question isn't a number, but rather impairment. So far, a test for when marijuana is impacting a person's ability to drive safely has not been established. 

This causes a big problem for medical marijuana users who may be frequent users but are not impaired.  

Until a test is established, Brezny advises anyone to avoid driving if they've consumed the drug in anyway. 


Joe Brezny, spokesman, Las Vegas Cannabis Cup 

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KNPR's State of Nevada
KNPR's State of Nevada