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An early start to recreational marijuana sales in Nevada cleared the final state hurdle Monday, paving the way for the program to roll out in under two months. The Nevada Tax Commission adopted temporary regulations proposed by the Department of Taxation that will allow the state to issue recreational marijuana licenses by July 1. Most of the regulations were copied from the state’s medical marijuana program. Tax department director Deonne Contine stressed the urgency in getting the regulations adopted so the state can meet Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget request, which includes $70 million from recreational marijuana taxes over two years. ADVERTISING “If we don’t adopt the regulations, we will not have a temporary program. If we don’t have a temporary program, we will not have the revenue that’s included in the governor’s budget,” Contine said. For the marijuana industry, Monday’s decision means lifeblood. “Its great for the state. It’s great for the industry. I think its great for everybody,” said Armen Yemenidjian, owner of Essence Cannabis dispensaries. “This is a display in how Nevada gets things done.” The state’s stamp of approval shifts the focus to local governments. Marijuana companies need both a state and local license to operate. Clark County is scheduled to begin licensing by July 1, and officials for the cities of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas said Monday both municipalities plan to do the same. Henderson could be the outlier, however. The city council implemented a 6-month moratorium on any marijuana licenses in February, meaning recreational sales by the five dispensaries in the city cannot happen until at least August. Potential snag Not everyone was happy with the regulations adopted Monday, and a group that wants exclusive rights on transporting recreational pot from growing facility to retail shops could cause a snag in rolling out the early start. Sam McMullen, representing the Independent Alcohol Distributors of Nevada, said the ballot measure voters approved in November gave currently licensed liquor distributors an 18-month monopoly on marijuana distribution licenses. Contine said “we fundamentally disagree with what Mr. McMullen has said.” The department will accept applications from liquor distributors, medical marijuana companies and medical marijuana distributors. Contine said they decided to open the applications beyond liquor distributors because of the potential conflict with federal licenses. Liquor distributors are licensed federally. And like banks or casinos, choosing to participate in a market that is federally illegal could jeopardize that license, Contine said. McMullen said his clients are aware of the risk, and added that “they’re totally willing to apply.” When the issue first arose in March, McMullen told the tax department his clients were considering taking legal action to protect their exclusivity on the distribution licenses. When reached by phone Monday, McMullen said his clients were considering their options and that he would meet with them within the next day or two. Jamie Munks contributed to this report.
Nevada Marijuana Laws
As marijuana states back off of social marijuana use for fear of inciting a federal crackdown, Nevada is bucking the trend and pushing ahead with pot clubs. Senate Bill 236, which would let local governments permit marijuana social clubs and other forms of public use currently outlawed, took one step closer to becoming law Tuesday. The bill passed with a 12-9 vote on Tuesday, and it now goes to the Assembly. On Monday, Clark County’s marijuana advisory panel finalized recommendations for for county commissioners that detail how marijuana lounges in Southern Nevada could work. But other states have exercised more caution under the Trump administration. ADVERTISING In Colorado this month, lawmakers gutted a bill that would have permitted social pot clubs after Gov. John Hickenlooper warned that such a move could draw the ire of the administration and bring federal drug enforcers down upon the state’s billion-dollar industry. In Alaska, lawmakers delayed a law allowing consumption in dispensaries, and Maine is considering a similar move. That leaves the door open for Nevada to become the first state to allow regulated social clubs. The move seems to have support from the gaming industry. Adults 21 and older can possess (and later this year buy) up to an ounce of marijuana, but the law that took effect Jan. 1 makes it so they can only consume that in a private residence. That leaves tourists who stay on the Strip or other resort properties in a conundrum: They will be able to buy pot legally, but will have no place to use it because casinos have been told to keep it off their properties or risk losing their licenses. “Tourists don’t have a home in Nevada,” bill sponsor Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said on the Senate floor before the vote. Pot lounges in Clark County would be located off the Strip, and could act as a “safe haven” for tourists who want to use marijuana, said Andy Abboud, Las Vegas Sands Corp. senior vice president, at Monday’s panel meeting. Not having those lounges, Abboud added, would cause tourists to bring the drug onto the casino properties and “dump the responsibility onto the resort corridor.” Tony Alamo, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, echoed those thoughts, saying those lounges would keep gaming companies from running afoul with the federal law. Revenue source The Senate voted down party lines, with 11 Democrats and independent Sen. Patricia Farley voting yes, and nine Republicans casting “nay” votes. Segerblom noted Gov. Brian Sandoval’s two-year budget calls for roughly $70 million from a special marijuana sales tax, and said tourists are an important part of that goal. “We’re trying to get $70 million in tax revenue from them,” Segerblom said. “So let’s give them some place to use it.” Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, noted two reasons why he was voting against he bill: He thinks the people who voted for the marijuana ballot measure in November did so thinking that people would only be able to consume in their homes, and because most of the counties he represents voted against legalization.