New Jersey just legalized recreational marijuana in the November election, but don’t bet on Atlantic City’s casinos amending their policies to accommodate people who use the herb. That’s probably not going to happen, according to a report from the Press Of Atlantic City.
Although people have been secretly using marijuana in the hotels for years, people close to these operations say that’s only because management has turned a blind eye. However, now that marijuana is legal, the protocol might get a little more militant with respect to the “no marijuana” restrictions.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any real major change,” Dan Heneghan, an industry consultant and retired spokesperson for the state Casino Control Commission, told the news source. “The blind eye that (casinos) turn to that will just be opened.”
So far, the Casino Association of New Jersey has not come out and taken a definitive stance against marijuana use. But that is likely because marijuana regulations are still being hashed out in the state legislature. The truth is, New Jersey lawmakers haven’t really given much consideration to how marijuana will be treated in places like casinos, mostly because everyone involved seems to be under the impression that it will be treated the same as alcohol and tobacco.
“If it’s a nonsmoking room, I would assume you would not be able to smoke cannabis there. But if it’s a smoking room, I don’t see why you couldn’t smoke marijuana there,” said Democratic state Senator Nicholas Scutari.
But the gaming world isn’t keen on weed. All one has to do is look to Nevada to see that much is true.
Although the Silver State legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2016, Las Vegas casinos still aren’t pot-friendly. Since marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, the Nevada Gaming Commission is against pot on the premises. In fact, it doesn’t even want anyone stoned on pot to be allowed to play. Anyone who is “visibly impaired” on drugs or alcohol can be asked to leave. In 2018, the commission amended this policy to ensure that everyone understood that this includes marijuana.
It’s probably going to be this way in Las Vegas as long as the federal government continues to view cannabis as an illegal substance.
“The federal law is what’s stopping (casinos) from integrating cannabis,” Jennifer Roberts, an attorney and the associated director for UNLV’s International Center for Gaming Regulation, told the Las Vegas Sun. “That and the Gaming Control Board telling the establishments to not go there. I will say that federal laws are difficult to change. You’re still not seeing politicians out there talking about getting rid of marijuana from Schedule I, though I think a lot of people would like to see that change.”
Gaming experts believe Atlantic City will borrow a chapter from Las Vegas by not allowing marijuana.
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“Atlantic City’s casinos will likely follow Las Vegas’ lead in not openly embracing recreational marijuana until increasing mainstream acceptance, and the experiences of states like Colorado, California, Washington, Oregon, and Nevada lead to a change in the federal position,” Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University, told the Press.
Federal marijuana laws could start to change as early as 2021. Democrats and Republicans are still duking it out over control of the Senate. If the Democrats reign victorious, several bills, including one designed to end federal marijuana prohibition (MORE Act), would move swiftly through the Senate and on to President-elect Biden’s desk.
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If Republicans maintain control of the upper chamber, it could still be a few years before marijuana makes any progress on Capitol Hill. But once it does, and it will, marijuana will slowly start to become more widely accepted in casinos nationwide. We might even see a day when some forms of it are allowed on gaming premises.