Office of the County Manager



With the legalized use and sale of marijuana in Nevada, Washoe County has been working diligently during the past two years to collect public feedback and input to create and implement codes to govern marijuana in unincorporated Washoe County

Washoe County's agencies and service providers assist the State of Nevada in the governance of legalized marijuana by adopting county codes, which mirror laws set by the State of Nevada for marijuana establishment zoning, business licensing, and by creating forward-thinking policy to ensure the safety and health of the public in unincorporated Washoe County.

Nevada voted to legalize marijuana on ballot question 2 during the 2016 election. Use is legal January 1,2017 and dispensaries received temporary recreational licensure on July 1, 2017. This voter initiative passed with 54% vote in Washoe County.

How did we get here?

2000 - Medical Marijuana Act is passed via ballot question 9 in 2000. This legalized use of medical marijuana for authorized patients. Passes with 66% support in Washoe County.

2013 - Nevada Senate approves Senate Bill 374 allowing for the licensing of non-profit medical dispensaries during legislative session.

2014 - Medical marijuana sales become legal.

2015 - First medical dispensary opens in Nevada.

2016 - Nevada votes to legalize marijuana on ballot question 2 during the 2016 election. It passes in Washoe County by 54%.

2017 - Marijuana becomes legal for recreational use and sale.

2017 - Washoe County permits temporary licensure to businesses and recreational sales began on July 1, 2017.


What is Washoe County's Role in Governing Legalized Marijuana?

Washoe County's agencies and regional service providers assist the State of Nevada in the governance of legalized marijuana by adopting county codes, which mirror laws set by the State of Nevada for marijuana establishment zoning, business licensing, and by creating forward-thinking policy to ensure the safety and health of the public in unincorporated Washoe County.

With this defined role, this is what local government does to regulate marijuana.

  • Washoe County, City of Reno, and the City of Sparks create their own codes and ordinances to govern their jurisdictions.
  • Local government can create codes for marijuana establishments pertaining to zoning, business licensing, and public safety.
  • Local government can also create codes for security requirements fees, and hours of operations for marijuana establishments.

Conversely, the following outlines what state government does to regulate marijuana:

  • The State of Nevada sets the laws for the use and sale of marijuana.
  • The Department of Taxation sets the number of dispensaries allowed in unincorporated Washoe County.
  • An operational license is provided by the Nevada Department of Taxation.
  • The State of Nevada issues medical use cards or set the age use restrictions for marijuana.

Who Regulates Marijuana Establishments?

The State of Nevada creates laws to govern marijuana establishments that mirrors voter initiatives. Washoe County creates codes that meet or exceed the requirements set by the state.

Marijuana establishments are licensed by the State of Nevada. The State is responsible for approving the total number of retail stores allowed within Washoe County based on population. State regulations also guide cultivation, establishment zoning, and the physical establishment requirements.

The following agencies are responsible for regulation in unincorporated Washoe County:

  • Ordinances & Code Amendments: Washoe County Board of County Commissioners and Manager's Office
  • Zoning & Business Licensing: Washoe County Business Licensing
  • Staff Registration, Establishment Security, & Law Enforcement: Washoe Sheriff's Office
  • Health Code Compliance: Washoe County Health District
  • Fire Codes: Truckee Meadows Fire District and North Lake Tahoe Fire District
  • Building Code: Washoe County Building & Planning Division

Within the jurisdictional city limits of the City of Reno and City of Sparks, the corresponding city governments are responsible for zoning, business licensing, staffing registration, enforcing codes, and inspecting establishments within their respective jurisdictions.

By state law, Washoe County is permitted to collect a fee of 3% of gross revenue annually collected from a marijuana establishment's business licensing. These fees are disbursed to cover the indirect and direct costs associated with the legalized marijuana industry. These costs can include, but are not limited to: compliance inspections, licensing, and review of applications.

Washoe County governs within unincorporated Washoe County. This means the City of Sparks and the City of Reno are responsible for governing within their jurisdiction.


How do Establishments Receive Licensure?

Establishments receive licensure via application to the Nevada Department of Taxation. The Nevada Department of Taxation sets the maximum number of establishments allowed within a county based on its population distribution.

After receiving its licensure from the Nevada Department of Taxation, a establishment may apply for a business license in unincorporated Washoe County and must comply with the county code for establishment requirements, security requirements, zoning requirements, and employee registration requirements.

Washoe County issues a single license to marijuana establishments for the sale of both medical and recreational marijuana in unincorporated Washoe County. Any establishment selling recreational marijuana must maintain the physical establishment requirements and standards that a medical marijuana establishment is required to meet under state law. More information on business licensing and the full-application can be found on the marijuana establishment business licensing page.

Here is an infographic map that lists the current number of licensed establishments within Reno, Sparks, and unincorporated Washoe County:

Infographic Map

State law and county code provide for four types of establishments:

  • Dispensary: Sells marijuana, supplies, and educational materials to medical marijuana card holders or anyone over the age of 21.
  • Production Establishment: Supplier of marijuana infused or edible products for dispensaries.
  • Cultivation Establishment: Supplier of cannabis and related supplies to other medical marijuana establishments.
  • Testing Laboratory: Tests marijuana, edible marijuana products and infused products.

During 2018 Code Amendments, Washoe County will be recognizing new establishment type:

  • Delivery and Distribution Services: Services to distribute marijuana between cultivation, production, laboratories, establishments, and consumers.

Can a Washoe County Marijuana Establishment Business License be Revoked?

Yes. A medical marijuana establishment's business license may be revoked for various reasons, including:

  • Selling or dispensing marijuana to a person without a valid State of Nevada medical marijuana registry identification card or who is under the age of 21.
  • Employing or using an agent, employee or volunteer who does not possess a valid State medical marijuana establishment agent registration card or a valid Washoe County Sheriff's Office registration card.
  • Not allowing Washoe County inspectors to conduct required inspections or to investigate complaints, and/or failing to issue visitor identification cards to Washoe County inspectors.


Physical Establishment Requirements

Because all dispensaries are given a single license to sell both medical and recreational marijuana, they must maintain the physical appearance of a traditional pharmacy. These requirements include:

  • Building is consistent with the traditional style of pharmacies and medical offices of the adjacent community
  • A state-approved sign
  • An approved security plan from the Washoe County Sheriff's Office
  • Establishment must also comply with all other building, fire, and safety codes

Security Requirements

Every marijuana establishment must submit a security plan to the Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office then works with County Licensing to approve or disapprove security plans with conditions. Owners may resubmit security plans if they do not meet the required provisions. Each security plan must include:

  • Devices to detect unauthorized intrusion.
  • Key card access to the building.
  • Exterior lighting to facilitate surveillance.
  • Electronic monitoring, including, without limitation:
    • At least one call-up monitor that is 19 inches or more
    • A video printer capable of immediately producing a clear still photo from any video camera
    • Video cameras of at least 704 x 480 resolution.
    • Must provide coverage of all entrances to and exits from limited access areas.
    • Provide coverage of all entrances to and exits from the building and can identify any activity occurring in or adjacent to the building.
    • A video camera at each point-of-sale location, which allows identification of any person purchasing marijuana.
    • A low light video camera in each grow room that can identify activity.
    • A method for storing video recordings from the video cameras for at least 30 calendar days.
    • A system failure notification with audible and visual notifications.
    • Battery backup for video cameras and recording equipment to support at least 12 hours.
  • Immediate automatic or electronic notification to alert local law enforcement agencies of an unauthorized breach of security at the establishment.


Dispensaries are permitted in properties with a regulatory zone of general commercial, neighborhood commercial, tourist commercial or industrial in unincorporated Washoe County. This code mirrors state law requirements that such medical marijuana establishments may only be located on property zoned commercial or industrial. Other requirements include:

  • Parcels must also be 1,000 feet from a school.
  • 300 feet from a park or similar community facility.

What Role Does the Public Have in Deciding New Establishment Locations?

Marijuana establishments can open in any location of their choosing if it falls within a within a zoning of general commercial, neighborhood commercial, tourist commercial or industrial in unincorporated Washoe County and meets the minimum distance requirements from a school or community facility. As marijuana establishments are treated as any other business license, the public or neighborhood advisory boards do not have the ability to influence the location of a new establishment within unincorporated Washoe County.

What Role Does the Public Have in Deciding Where Existing Establishments Can Move?

The community may provide feedback on the impacts of an existing retail dispensary if they wish to relocate. They may not provide feedback on the location of an establishment.


Regional Services

Washoe County is proactively ensuring the safety of the community and providing regional services through government collaboration, forward-thinking policy, and a continuous process to track and respond to the social impacts of marijuana in unincorporated Washoe County.

Through strategic planning, Washoe County has prioritized action to proactively govern and monitor the social impacts of legalized marijuana in the region.

Marijuana Regional Services Quick Facts:

  • Washoe County has established a team across jurisdictions that include 30 division services to proactively provide services to the population.
  • Washoe County is actively monitoring the impact of marijuana in the community, especially vulnerable populations.
  • The county strategic plan has prioritized proactive outreach and regional services to legally address the impacts of marijuana and regulate an industry that was once black-market.


Washoe County's role in legalized marijuana is to create and enforce county codes in unincorporated Washoe County that meet or exceed laws set by the State of Nevada. Washoe County and its regional services aim to keep the county's growing population safe through proactive education, enforcement of ordinances and code, and ensuring the safety of marijuana establishments.

The Washoe County Sheriff s Office has partnered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) to train their force within the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) program so officers can observe, identify, and articulate the signs of impairment related to drugs, alcohol, or the combination of both substances during a field sobriety testing.

The Sheriff s Office has been working through the past year to train their force to identify those under the influence of marijuana during field sobriety testing to reduce the number of impaired drivers on Washoe County's roadways. Please do not consume and drive - it is illegal and punishable by the same DUI offense as driving under the influence of alcohol.

Legal Consumption Quick Facts:

  • Marijuana use is only legal in the confines of your home. Public use, including inside hotels, is a misdemeanor offense.
  • Consumption is illegal where you can purchase marijuana.
  • Driving under the influence of marijuana is unsafe and illegal. You can receive a felony DUI in the same manner as driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • The Washoe County Sheriff's Office proactively worked with the NHTS during the past year to train their officers to observe, identify, and articulate signs of impairment related to drugs and alcohol during field sobriety tests.
  • Legal possession is 1ounce or 1/8 of an ounce of concentrate.
  • You must be 21 years old to purchase from a retail store. 


Board of County Commissioners Vision of Marijuana Governance Success

With the prioritization of marijuana governance and regional services, the board of County Commissioners has created a vision of success for marijuana governance in Washoe County. This vision includes:

  • Addressing traffic, public safety, visual, air quality and other direct impacts on neighborhood communities by limiting the extent and impact of legalized marijuana in unincorporated Washoe County.
  • Acknowledging the role of State partners and local jurisdictions in the governance and enforcement of legalized marijuana. Industry should pay for the direct and indirect costs of legalized marijuana.
  • Partnering with local jurisdictions to ensure streamline process, but consider unique needs of unincorporated Washoe County.
  • Ensuring transparency and consideration for public feedback during the code review process and mimic other similar licenses {like liquor).
  • Streamlining and simplifying processes to treat medical and recreational marijuana in the same manner and ensure clarity in the process.

Permanent Licensure

Washoe County will be moving to create permanent licensure codes to replace the temporary recreational sale licenses provided to establishments on July 1, 2017. The single license allows businesses to sell both recreational/medical marijuana in unincorporated Washoe County. Codes are slated to be adopted in April 2018.


Call 311 to find resources, ask questions, and utilize Washoe County services. Learn More »
Call 311 to find resources, ask questions, and utilize Washoe County services. Learn More »