Sandoval signs 3 marijuana bills into law, vetoes one


Medical marijuana cards will now cost as low as $50 for Nevada patients, edible products will come in opaque, child-proof packages and a 10 percent excise tax on sales of recreational weed estimated to generate $70 million will be designated for Nevada’s rainy day fund after three of four remaining marijuana bills passed by the Nevada Legislature were signed into law Monday by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Senate Bills 478 and 344 were inked by the governor Monday along with Assembly Bill 422. Only Assembly Bill 259 – which would have allowed those convicted of past marijuana-related crimes involving an equal or lesser amount of what’s now legal to have that crime vacated from their criminal records – was vetoed.

SB478 also calls for a 15 percent wholesale tax on both medical and recreational marijuana, a move praised by dispensary owners as cost-cutting, despite increasing current wholesale tax on the medical plant.

The added tax allows a single-stream wholesale process from cultivation and production facilities to marijuana dispensaries, said Armen Yemenidijian of Essence Cannabis Dispensary, and saves weed vendors from the added internal costs and logistical headaches of having to classify marijuana plants as either medical or recreational from the moment the seed is planted.

“Having one inventory is very important,” Yemenidjian said. “It’d be very difficult and cumbersome to manage two different inventories.”

Yemenidjian also voiced support for SB344 and AB422, adding that the legislation would help preserve Nevada’s medical marijuana program while allowing its new recreational weed industry to thrive.

“Patient focus is really important for the industry,” he said. “And this legislation does that.”

In a letter explaining his veto of AB259, Sandoval criticized the bill for specifically requiring judges to seal records and vacate judgements for marijuana possession crimes of less than one ounce. He argued that those convicted of previous marijuana crimes should instead take advantage of recently signed SB125 and AB327, both of which expedite the record-sealing process in Nevada but don’t mandate such action from judges.

“Given the new reforms to the record-sealing process, there is no need for a separate procedure for marijuana crimes,” Sandoval wrote.

The governor also called language in AB259 “unclear,” arguing that the term “other offenses,” could inadvertently allow people convicted of larger marijuana crimes, like trafficking and possession of larger quantities than the current legal limit, to also have their previous crimes vacated.



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Nevada judge mulls suit over July 1 recreational pot startup


Updated 1 hour, 42 minutes ago

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A judge in Nevada is trying to decide whether the state’s first sales of recreational marijuana should begin as scheduled July 1 despite complaints from alcohol distributors.

Lawyers for the liquor distributors and the Nevada Department of Taxation are expected to go before Judge James Wilson in Carson City on Tuesday to argue the case.

Wilson granted a temporary restraining order May 30 blocking licensing of pot distributors under the ballot measure voters approved in November.

The liquor distributors argue the law dictates they get the first shot at the equivalent licenses for recreational marijuana.

The state says it has the authority to license medical marijuana dispensaries to play that role on a temporary basis from July 1 through Dec. 31.

The Nevada Cannabis Coalition says any delay could cost the state millions of dollars a month in tax revenue targeted for schools.



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How to Successfully (and Legally) Advertise Your Cannabis Business in Nevada


Nevada’s proposed date for adult-use is July 1, 2017, which is coming up quick. Although a court order may push the date back a bit, for retailers getting ready to open doors, now is the time to make sure you are prepared for the inevitable onslaught of new customers and tourists looking to visit the new marijuana mecca. This is also a crucial time to make sure you’re well informed to maintain compliance while still making a splash on the new scene.

One of the best ways to increase your brand recognition is through positive branding and advertising. The rollout of the new retail regulations has been slow and steady, with only draft regulations available now. These rules are not set in stone just yet, but will be the basis for retail cannabis advertising regulations in Nevada.

Nevada Cannabis Advertising Restrictions

If you want to be ready for the new market and have your advertisements approved by the Department of Taxation with flying colors, these are the most important rules to keep in mind:

Do not advertise towards children (or anyone under the age of 21)

  • No cartoons, toys, or characters in your logo or ad

Do not show the consumption of cannabis

  • Advertisements must not show smoking, vaping or otherwise consuming cannabis

Do not encourage overconsumption

  • Promote safe, responsible use
  • Do not promote alcohol use and cannabis consumption together

Do not promote false or misleading information

  • Inform and educate your customers with factual, accurate information

Do not give away free product without a purchase

  • Unfortunately, freebies are prohibited. All products must be purchased.

Do not advertise anywhere that is not restricted to adults

  • This includes playgrounds, public parks, libraries, schools, and public transit

All advertising must include warning messages as required by the Department of Taxation

  • “Keep out of reach of children”
  • “For use only by adults 21 years of age and older”

Nevada Cannabis Advertising Best Practices

Now that you’re aware of what you can’t do, here are some ideas for what you can do to entice new customers and encourage repeat business:

Do advertise in areas where adults are the primary target

  • Coasters in casinos, billboards, flyers to hand out on the Vegas strip, or placing an ad in Vegas Magazine are all great ways to bring adult-only eyes to your business

Do showcase your product, not consumption

  • If you’ve got beautiful cannabis products, put them on display in your advertising. Vegas is all about the glitz and glam, and the marketing of cannabis should be no exception.

Do promote safe, responsible consumption

  • It’s easy to overdo it in the Nevada heat, so adding a disclaimer in any advertising is not only a good safety measure, it shows the Department of Taxation (and your customers) that you are a responsible business owner and want your customers to be responsible, too.

Do educate your audience

  • Including facts and knowledge in your advertising is an excellent way to educate your customers, many of whom are likely to be tourists coming from a state without legal cannabis. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way.

Do advertise discounts and deals

  • Giving away free products is a no-go, but offering a discount with the mention of an advertisement will have customers knocking down your door and help spread the word about your business.



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Las Vegas Casino Bans MassRoots CEO For Cannabis Ties


The gambling industry’s year-old program intended to prevent money-laundering in America’s casinos has resulted in one of the cannabis industry’s highest-profile media executives being banned from gambling at the Wynn & Encore Las Vegas casino.

Wynn banned Isaac Dietrich for his ‘source of wealth in the marijuana field.’

Isaac Dietrich, CEO of Denver-based social media platform MassRoots and one the investors who recently purchased controlling interest in High Times magazine and its affiliated businesses, signed up for Wynn Resorts’ Red Card reward program while gambling at the Las Vegas casino last week. Wynn’s Red Card program promises exclusive rates and promotions. Dietrich instead received a red card of a different sort — ejection from the casino.

“I can confirm that I was permanently banned from gambling at Wynn Resorts on June 7, 2017, due to my role as chairman and CEO of a publicly-traded technology company focused on the cannabis sector,” Dietrich told Leafly in an email today.

A ‘Marijuana Related Entity’

In a June 7 email to Wynn Resorts’ compliance officer noting that MassRoots’ stock is traded by many of the same institutions that have holdings in Wynn Resorts, Dietrich explained that MassRoots is a technology company that does not deal directly in cannabis.

A response to Dietrich’s email, apparently from Wynn Resorts’ compliance officer Larry Whelan, begged to differ.

“If I recall correctly, the customer due diligence procedures required by the Wynn Las Vegas compliance program identified your business as a marijuana related entity that derives its income from marijuana businesses. Unfortunately, this puts your source of wealth in the marijuana field – as your business is being paid with proceeds from the sale of marijuana.

“Our regulatory requirements are not limited to identifying businesses that facilitate the sale of marijuana – we are obligated to identify the source of wealth of our customers to ensure the funds have been lawfully earned.

“The ‘state vs. federal’ debate will continue at much higher levels than this email.  Until that debate is clearly resolved with respect to the Bank Secrecy Act, the Wynn Las Vegas leadership team has chosen to take the more conservative approach.”

Your Business Model is Cannabis, Right?

Leafly was unable to independently confirm the email from Whelan to Dietrich. Michael Weaver, Wynn’s senior vice president of marketing and communications, responded to Leafy’s questions, saying, “As a matter of policy, we do not comment on our guests.” Weaver did not address the email’s authenticity and did not respond to follow-up email and telephone questions about the Wynn’s compliance program practices or the due diligence cited in the email attributed to Whelan.

The email attributed to Whelan left the door open for Dietrich to appeal his ban from Wynn’s casino.

“If we’ve misunderstood your business model, please feel free to share that information with me and I’ll be happy to review,” the email attributed to Whelan said.

According to MassRoots’ investor relations information, the publicly traded company “is one of the largest technology platforms for the regulated cannabis industry,” enabling consumers to make educated cannabis purchasing decisions through community-driven reviews.

Trade Show Visitors = Money Launderers?

The American Gaming Association, a national trade group representing the $240 billion U.S. casino industry, instituted its anti-money laundering compliance program last year. The program was intended to combat money laundering and terrorist financing in compliance with the federal Bank Secrecy Act. Recently updated anti-money laundering compliance best practices are detailed here.

Dietrich’s running afoul of anti-money laundering compliance at the Wynn casino over the source of his income comes as recreational cannabis sales are set to begin throughout Nevada on July 1.

If the Wynn’s policy becomes active among other resorts, it could cause some interesting conflicts, as Las Vegas has become the defacto capital of cannabis industry trade shows. The annual MJ Biz Conference, America’s largest cannabis trade show, is held there every November. Last year the show attracted more than 10,000 attendees. This year it moves to the Las Vegas Convention Center and is expected to draw upwards of 14,000 guests. That’s a lot of visitors to ban from the casino floor.



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Medical marijuana in Nevada set framework for recreational sales


In the coming weeks, recreational marijuana retail sales are set to begin in Nevada. But how will it affect existing medical marijuana patients?

Medical marijuana dispensaries opened across Nevada in 2015. The framework for the medical program is providing a “launching pad” for recreational sales, said Andrew Jolley, owner of The+Source dispensary and president of the Nevada Dispensary Association.

“The only dispensaries who will be able to sell recreationally are existing medical dispensaries,” he said. “So we are very much building upon the regulated framework that has worked very well in Nevada when we transition into adult use.”

RELATED: Recreational marijuana sales could be a boon for Las Vegas

The transition to recreational pot does raise the concern of the focus shifting away from medical patients as recreational sales are expected to be higher than medical.

“Never having sold cannabis in a recreational environment, we are all concerned about the medical patients being lost in the shuffle, if you will,” Jolley said. “None of us want to see that happen. We’re all working very hard to make sure that we can serve the medical patients’ needs as well as the future adult use customers.”

In other states that have legalized recreational pot, such as Colorado, medical marijuana sales only make up about 30 to 40 percent of the overall revenue. Some of this can be attributed to adult customers not needing a medical card, just being 21 and older. But Jolley still thinks there will be a demand from medical patients in Nevada.

“I think the medical marijuana will remain strong,” he said. “There’s a lot of patients here in Nevada who have now become used to being able to purchase medical products here in the state over the past two years.”

In addition, AB422, authored by Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, D-Las Vegas, would make it easier for patients to obtain a medical marijuana card and certain fees would be removed, giving patients a financial incentive to still get a card.

Besides the bill, medical marijuana will also be taxed at a lower rate than recreational pot, about 10 percent less.

While there are some medical patients against the sale of recreational pot, overall, Jolley said many support it.

“People who use cannabis as medicine today generally tend to be people who favor legalization and don’t feel that this plant should be unfairly criminalized like it has been in the past,” Jolley said. “So I would say overwhelmingly patients are excited and happy that we’re finally normalizing cannabis and treating it for what it is rather than the stigmas of the past.”

July 1 is the target date for recreational pot sales, despite a legal challenge that could potentially postpone the launch. 

A group of alcohol distributors are arguing that they have the first rights to distribute recreational pot. A judge sided with the plaintiffs, putting the start date in jeopardy.

But Jolley, among others, are confident the July 1 timeframe will go forward once more facts are presented to the courts.

“I think once presented with all the facts and implications, I think the court will allow the program to continue as planned,” he said.



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Pass the cream and the cannabis coffee, please …

Hitting the market soon is a new type of coffee pot … or, more to the point, pot coffee.

In the wake of California’s legalization of medical marijuana and its green light for recreational marijuana use, San Diego tech-oriented entrepreneurs have come up with a new wake-up call: cannabis coffee pods. Each pod has 10 milligrams of THC, marijuana’s active ingredient.

Called Brewbudz, the marijuana flower-containing Arabica coffee beans pods are designed to pop into your Keurig machine to brew cannabis coffee. (Or, cannabis cocoa for non-coffee lovers.) Its website says French vanilla and hazelnut flavors are next.

The San Diego-based company, Cannabiniers, introduced its Brewbudz at the recent Hightimes Cannabis Cup in Nevada, touting its java as ideal in social situations where smoking isn’t appropriate. The price? $7 a pop — not too far afield from a cup of Starbucks.

Cannabiniers’ Vice President Jeffry Paul said it’s being rolled out in Nevada in early July and in California about 60 days later. The coffee pods will be sold at medical marijuana dispensaries. A doctor’s prescription will be necessary until California’s recreational use guidelines go into effect after the first of the year.

For the non-coffee aficionados, BrewBudz offers a weed-infused tea. Its first flavors are breakfast blend (black) and chamomile with green tea soon to come.

Crowning touch: Tim Berthiaume doesn’t mind being called a loser — in fact, the San Diego man is king of the losers. And he is being crowned this weekend in Sacramento, along with Robin Kimball, a Salinas woman named queen of the losers.

Berthiaume lost 76 pounds and Kimball lost 104 pounds via will power and the moral support of fellow members of TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly). That’s a nonprofit, non-commercial weight-loss support group founded in 1948.

TOPS doesn’t promote a particular diet but offers nutritional education, weight loss tips, weekly chapter meetings and recognition of members’ success at its annual meeting.

Berthiaume, who confesses to loving his chow, grew serious about weight loss after being diagnosed as borderline diabetic. But his diet took a hit when he twisted his ankle, tore a tendon and had to undergo surgery. The mishap left him using crutches and a knee scooter, making exercise difficult, at best.

“I let the other TOPS members know how critical their support would be,” said Berthiaume, the lone male in his chapter when he joined. “Every week I would get phone calls about how I was doing on my weight loss journey.”

He can thank many his supporters in person at the TOPS celebratory gathering this weekend in Sacramento.

On exhibit: Pete Wilson has built a lengthy resumé and political reputation as San Diego’s former mayor, state legislator, U.S. senator and California governor.

However, it’s his patriotism, not his political persona, that’s being recognized this weekend at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

Wilson, a Marine Corps officer in the mid-1950s, is a longtime museum trustee and served as board chairman from 2006-09. On Saturday, his family, friends and former staffers are gathering around as an 80-foot liberty flagstaff in the museum courtyard is dedicated in his honor.

In 1999, Wilson joined an elite list of Americans as a recipient of the highest award of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society — the Patriot Award.

Beach sighting: Shark bites were a concern Thursday when a great white shark was spotted off Coronado’s Silver Strand beach. But later that evening, TV’s “Beach Bites” with Katie Lee focused, instead, on humans consuming fish.

The Cooking Channel show, which premiered June 1, chronicled Katie Lee flying from a dinner of grilled mango jerk chicken in Florida to the Sand Bar in Mission Beach to chow down on grilled fish tacos.

Master feat: Fearless San Diego chef Lauren Lawless, who tackles fileting, marinating, grilling and roasting such delicacies as eyeballs, intestines, tongue and bugs, made it into the top 40 contestants of “MasterChef’s” Season 8 season debut. (San Diego cook Claudia Sandoval won the Season 6 competition.)

Alas, Lawless was among the 20 contestants eliminated May 31 during the opening episode on Fox TV.

But the self-taught chef and working single mother from Pacific Beach isn’t wasting time feeling sorry for herself. She is starting a Facebook live show, “Flawless Lawless Cuisine,” in July or August and plans to publish a cookbook this year.

Two other amateur chefs with San Diego ties remain in the “Master Chef” competition, however. Ballet dancer Dino Luciano and magazine ad salesman Brien O’Brien — are heating up the air waves.

A show of pride: San Diego has an up-front presence at the Capital Pride Parade today in Washington, D.C., where San Diego gay rights activist Nicole Murray-Ramirez will serve as a grand marshal.

On Sunday, he’ll salute LGBT Armed Services veterans and active duty military, including a San Diego contingent, at the Washington Monument rally following The Equality March for Unity and Pride.

Sunday’s national march, a year after the nightclub massacre in Orlando, is taking place simultaneously in 110 U.S. cities, including San Diego at 10 a.m.

diane.bell@sduniontribune.com

(619) 293-1518

Twitter: @dianebellSD

Facebook: dianebell.news

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Nevada pot industry still hoping for July 1 recreational sales kickoff despite restraining order

L.E. Baskow

Various marijuana product on display at The Source dispensary facility newly opened in Henderson, numerous edible marijuana products are also available there too on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016.

Friday, June 9, 2017 | 2 a.m.

An order issued by a Nevada court in Carson City to prevent the state’s new marijuana regulating body from moving forward with a July 1 start date for recreational weed sales has the industry holding its breath but determined to move forward on time.

But a Las Vegas marijuana attorney notes that the complexity of the case could make it difficult for the Nevada Department of Taxation to shake the May 30 order on time, granted to the Independent Alcohol Distributors of Nevada, without a settlement — something both marijuana and alcohol industry members said they have not agreed to.

“These are complicated factual and legal arguments,” said marijuana attorney Bruce L. Gale. “There’s a history to this, and it’s hard to say how it will play out.”

The rift comes from a disagreement over recently proposed policy by the Department of Taxation and previously outlined regulations in the voter-approved Ballot Question 2, which legalized the use and possession of recreational marijuana while leaving some framework in the hands of the taxation department and the Nevada Legislature. Ballot Question 2, which passed by nine points in November’s election, calls for a 15 percent tax on wholesale marijuana purchases, including those by a dispensary from a marijuana cultivation plant.

Under the current medical marijuana program in Nevada, managed by the Department of Behavioral and Public Health, state license holders can control and operate their own transportation of weed from one facility to another. But per Ballot Question 2, the Department of Taxation can only issue marijuana distributors’ licenses to wholesale liquor license holders, unless the department determines “an insufficient number of marijuana distributors would result from this limitation.”

Nevada Department of Taxation spokeswoman Stephanie Klapstein said only five licensed wholesale distributors had formally applied for a recreational marijuana wholesale license as of Thursday.

“The department reached out to wholesale liquor license holders in writing to determine whether there would be enough interest to serve the marijuana establishment market,” Klapstein wrote in a March letter to dispensary owners. “While some were ‘interested,’ none followed up to indicate that they had a plan going forward to be ready to serve the market.”

Klapstein’s note adds that as federally licensed permit holders under the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, alcohol distributors licensed under Nevada’s recreational marijuana program would run into a conflict of interest that could result in the loss of their federal license.

Plaintiff Allan Nassau, who owns Red Rock Wines, disputed Klapstein’s claim, saying “at least half” of the state’s licensed liquor distributors were interested in applying for a marijuana liquor license. Nassau and IADN political strategist Sam McMullen said he “was confident” the industry could sidestep conflicts with their federal license.

Nassau said the department “hasn’t been responsive since Day 1,” accusing them of “purposefully leaving us out.” He argued that without liquor wholesale distributors in the mix, last year’s Ballot Question 2 campaign — built on the slogan “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol” — would instead be regulated “like medical marijuana.”

Alcohol distributors contributed over $87,000 during the election cycle in support of Ballot Question 2.

“(Alcohol wholesale distributors) were supposed to have exclusive licensing,” McMullen said. “And the Department of Taxation is treating us like it wasn’t in the initiative.”

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who has been a leader in sponsoring and pushing through pro-marijuana legislation in Nevada, said he’s “90 percent sure” the recreational marijuana program will begin as scheduled on July 1.

Sources in the industry, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the court papers hadn’t been filed as of Wednesday, said a filing to dismiss the case will be heard in Carson City on June 13. If Nevada’s First Judicial District Court does not dismiss the case that day, the court will determine during a June 19 hearing whether to issue a preliminary injunction.

“I don’t know how, but we will reach an agreement,” Segerblom said.

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Nevada races to finalize legal marijuana rules


Nevada state legislators put the final touches on measures to regulate marijuana this week, just weeks before Nevada becomes the fifth state to legalize the use and sale of marijuana for recreational purposes.

The state, which suffered the brunt of an economic recession that hit its tourism and construction industries especially hard, is now anticipating tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue from legalization. And as tourism figures bounce back to new records, some in the Silver State think legal marijuana will be the next big draw.

“We’re going to really market this thing around the world,” said Sen. Tick Segerblom (D), the chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

But some opponents of legalized marijuana say the state is rushing too fast to implement a complicated set of regulations on an industry that is still going through growing pains.

“State officials are clearly rushing into this hoping no one will notice how sloppy implementation is actually going,” said Rafael Lemaitre, a former top staffer in the Obama administration’s Office of National Drug Control Policy. “The way Nevada is moving is reminiscent of a college student who skipped class all semester and is now cramming for finals at the last minute.”

In the final days of this year’s legislative session, members were indeed racing to finish work on a handful of regulations that had not yet been completed.

Some of the final measures passed included streamlining regulators split between the state Department of Licensing and the Department of Taxation; measures regulating the use and sale of edible marijuana products, finalizing tax rates and knocking down a wall between medical and recreational marijuana sales that supporters hope will streamline the industry.

Even some supporters worry the state won’t be completely ready to begin recreational sales on July 1, as required under the ballot measure voters passed in 2016. A Nevada district court judge last week issued a temporary stay blocking the July date, in a dispute over who should be allowed to distribute marijuana products.

“We’re not certain we’re going to be able to hit the July 1 date,” said Scot Rutledge, who ran the campaign to legalize pot for recreational use last year.

Nevada was one of four states in which voters opted to legalize marijuana last year. The version voters passed set the most aggressive schedule for legalizing pot; the other three states, California, Massachusetts and Maine, gave their legislators and regulators a full year to craft rules for the industry before recreational sales begin.

Many of the new Nevada rules are modeled on other states that have pioneered the legalization pathway. The state Department of Taxation is drafting regulations that will allow medical marijuana retailers to sell to the recreational market, a provision based on Oregon law. Other provisions are borrowed from Colorado law, where the state learned hard lessons about home-grown pot plants.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) has spoken with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who has shared his state’s experience with the marijuana experiment, Sandoval told The Hill earlier this year.

“We want to learn from the experience of other states,” Sandoval said in a February interview. “I want a model system.”

Nevada legislators were unable to reach an agreement on whether to allow pot clubs, where people can use marijuana outside their own homes. Consuming marijuana in a public place remains illegal, and the state’s casinos will not allow guests to use marijuana on their premises.

But Segerblom said the decision to create pot clubs could be left to local jurisdictions, some of which see the clubs as a potent attraction for tourists from around the world.

“It’s really going to be more of a local issue at this point,” Segerblom said. “I’ve been talking to attorneys, and it looks like maybe [local jurisdictions] do have the authority” to create clubs.

Nevada will levy a handful of taxes on marijuana products at several levels: Wholesale products will incur a 15 percent tax. Retail sales will be subject to the state’s 8 percent sales tax, as well as an additional 10 percent tax Sandoval advocated.

Those taxes are likely to lead to a quick windfall. Analysts expect the state to sell $700 million in marijuana products over the next two years, generating tens of millions for Nevada’s already stretched budget. If Nevada experiences a rush of sales like Colorado, Washington and Oregon, three of the four states where pot is already legal, those projections are likely on the low end of reality.

The last remaining fight is over who will be allowed to distribute marijuana products. Alcohol distributors were the first businesses allowed to apply for permits, though the state said it would allow licensed medical marijuana establishments, or MMEs, to distribute pot too. The alcohol distributors went to court to block those businesses from distribution, leading to the temporary injunction.

Supporters of legal pot say racing to begin recreational sales will stamp out the black market in pot sales that still exists.

“In order to avoid the black market from flourishing any further, we’re going to move into regulated sales as quickly as possible,” Rutledge said.

But Lemaitre said anything Nevada gets wrong could inspire Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsEx-CIA agent: Trump can’t admit he doesn’t have Comey tapes Senators debate bringing in Comey for Round 2 Maxine Waters: Trump is ‘absolutely lying’ about Comey conversations MORE, a marijuana legalization skeptic, to move to block state implementation of recreational use laws. Sessions has not said what steps his Justice Department will take to crack down on states where marijuana is legal, after the Obama administration reached a detente with states.

“The situation with federal enforcement is already tenable as it is. Rushing the process could also give Sessions another excuse to reassert federal control, which should surprise no one given his track record this far,” Lemaitre said.



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An Early Start to Retail Marijuana Sales in Nevada Could Be Delayed


Getty

Last month we brought you news about an early start to adult use marijuana retail sales slated to begin on July 1st in Nevada. Under the plan, established medical marijuana dispensaries were to apply for licenses to sell cannabis to anyone over the age of 21.

Now it looks like those plans will be put on hold after a judge issued a temporary restraining order that prohibits the state’s Department of Taxation from enforcing an application deadline for dispensaries wishing to participate in the program. This comes after the Independent Alcohol Distributors of Nevada argued that the Nevada marijuana legalization measure gave liquor wholesalers exclusive rights to adult use marijuana distribution licenses for the first 18 months of sales.

“The statute clearly gives a priority and exclusive license to alcohol distributors, in order to promote the goal of regulating marijuana similar to alcohol,” the judge said in the ruling.

According to the Nevada tax department, they put out the word to liquor distributors to see if anyone was interested in the marijuana distribution licenses; they say not a single distributor even submitted a business plan until very recently. That’s why they opened up the application process, lest they not have anyone able to actually deliver the marijuana from growers when the time came.

To be fair, you can’t blame the liquor distributors for wanting exclusive rights for the 18 month span – that’s a pretty sweet gig with no competition. But why wait so long to express interest? It’s been 8 months since Question 2 passed in Nevada, that’s plenty of time to let authorities know you want to participate in the activity you claim that measure passing gave you the rights to.

For their part, dispensary owners say the exclusive distribution rights scheme will end up making the entire supply chain longer and more difficult than it needs to be. Companies that have growing and retail centers on the same property would have to use a liquor middleman to deliver cannabis from one room to another in the same building.

Treating cannabis like alcohol means to treat them similar in a legal sense. It doesn’t mean that the alcohol industry has to be literally involved in the legal marijuana industry. If that were the case, why not sell cannabis at liquor stores? Or staple dime bags to 6-packs of Bud Light?

The legal cannabis industry is already fighting an uphill battle in many ways; making things even more difficult for no reason makes no sense.



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Recreational pot advocates pleased with Nevada Legislature’s strides


Steve Marcus

An employee takes a cutting from a plant at a Desert Grown Farms Cultivation Facility in Las Vegas, Dec. 15, 2016.

CARSON CITY — 

Legislators in favor of propelling Nevada’s marijuana industry will have most of their wishes fulfilled if Gov. Brian Sandoval keeps a commitment to sign at least one of four remaining pot bills sitting on his desk.

The bills approved by the Legislature before Monday night’s deadline:

Senate Bill 487 would mandate a 10 percent excise tax on recreational marijuana sales for the state’s rainy day fund.

Senate Bill 344 would require childproof, opaque-colored packaging for edibles and restrict THC content per package.

Assembly Bill 422 would reduce the costs of medical marijuana cards from $75-$100 to $50.

Assembly Bill 259 would allow those convicted of past marijuana-related crimes involving an equal or lesser amount of what’s now legal to have that crime vacated from their criminal records.

They await the governor’s approval before a June 15 deadline. Sandoval said Monday he would “absolutely be signing” SB487, but he’s still deciding on SB344. “That’s a bill I’m still reading,” Sandoval said of SB344. “I want to look closely through it.” He did not comment on AB422 or AB259.

The proposed bills would join four other bills signed into law from this session to provide a framework for Nevada’s new recreational marijuana industry, while preserving the state’s medical marijuana program.

Ballot Question 2, passed last November, legalized possession and use of up to one ounce of recreational marijuana flower for adults age 21 and older, or up to one ounce of marijuana concentrates, like wax, shatter and carbon dioxide oil. But the ballot question called on the Legislature and the Nevada Department of Taxation to further define the industry.

The Nevada Department of Taxation, which will regulate the industry, approved provisions for an “early start” program to begin on July 1 to allow current medical marijuana facilities in good standing to obtain temporary recreational licenses before the recreational program’s scheduled start date of Jan. 1.

The four bills already signed by Sandoval represent an achievement for state Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas. The longtime marijuana advocate said Tuesday it was his “best session as a legislator.”

“We’re very proud of what we accomplished,” Segerblom said. “We ended up where we wanted it to be.”

The list of signed bills includes:

• Marijuana rights for tribes. Senate Bill 375 allows the governor’s office to negotiate with tribal governments within Nevada on the use and sale of medical marijuana. It cites the 2013 Cole Memorandum and 2014 Wilkinson Memorandum, which suggest the U.S. Department of Justice should not devote law enforcement resources to crack down on those complying with marijuana laws within their state.

• Disclosure on parolees involved in medical weed. Senate Bill 277, unanimously passed through the Senate and Assembly, requires the Division of Public and Behavioral Health to disclose information on medical marijuana patients to the Division of Parole and Probation if a cardholder or applicant is on parole or probation. Previous laws require the Division of Public and Behavioral Health to keep that information confidential. But, unlike other marijuana laws at this year’s Legislature, SB277 won’t go into effect until Oct. 1.

• No urine test for marijuana DUI suspects. Passed with 34 of 42 votes in the Assembly and unanimously in the Senate, Assembly Bill 135 erases a limit set on the amount of marijuana that can legally be found in the urine of a driver suspected to be impaired. Instead, the amount of marijuana in a driver suspected to be impaired can now only be measured through a blood test.

• More leniency for hemp research. The heavily amended Senate Bill 396, first introduced in March as a bill to regulate massage parlors that use medical marijuana topical products, was instead passed to allow growth and research of low THC-level marijuana and industrial hemp. While existing law allows universities to grow and research industrial hemp, Sen. Pat Spearman’s bill allows plants with a THC percentage of less than 0.3 to be more widely grown and researched.

Marijuana advocates had some setbacks this session. Among bills to not make the final cut:

• Apprenticeship programs. Senate Bill 416 would have allowed medical marijuana facilities — dispensaries, cultivation facilities and testing labs — to apply for and carry out state apprenticeship programs. Sandoval vetoed the bill on May 30, citing the risk of losing federal funds for the state internship program because the plant is still federally illegal. The Senate chose not to take further action after Sandoval’s veto.

• More qualifying medical conditions, protection for licensing board members and green light for weed massages. Segerblom’s wide-ranging Senate Bill 374 would have added opioid addiction to the list of qualifying medical conditions for Nevadans to obtain a medical marijuana card. It also prevented professional licensing boards from firing or disciplining a board-licensed employee who uses medical marijuana, and allowed health care and massage therapists to legally use products containing weed on their clients’ skin. Sandoval vetoed the bill on May 31, and the Senate did not take further action.

• Marijuana lounges. Senate Bill 236 would have allowed businesses to obtain permits for marijuana use and open the door for pot consumption in some public places where it is outlawed. The bill passed through Senate and Assembly committees but missed a May 26 deadline to move forward.

• Weed funds for child welfare, alcohol abuse and health programs. Senate Bill 379 would have designated revenue from Nevada’s medical marijuana program for agencies that provide child welfare services for alcohol and drug abuse and behavioral health programs. That bill also passed through the Senate last month but never made it out of Assembly committee before a May 19 deadline.

Local reaction

Members of the Las Vegas marijuana industry called the legislative session “astonishing” and marveled at the Nevada government’s collective movement to jump-start its recreational marijuana program.

Nevada would be the first of four states that legalized recreational marijuana last November to start sales of the plant if licensed dispensaries are allowed to begin early-start recreational sales as planned on July 1.

“What they’ve done collectively is unprecedented,” said Frank Hawkins, owner of Nevada Wellness Center Marijuana Dispensary. “Usually you can’t get the government to do anything quickly.”

Hawkins, who voted against Ballot Question 2 because he believed a recreational industry would negatively impact Nevada’s current medical program, said he came on board with the new industry after seeing state officials’ “strong desire” to also preserve the medical program.

“You have to get huge kudos to them, for stepping out into waters they thought were uncharted,” he said.

David Goldwater, owner of Inyo Fine Cannabis Dispensary, agreed. He said the 10 percent excise tax outlined in SB487 on recreational sales was something the industry is reluctantly “choking down,” considering the otherwise industry-friendly legislation this session.

For Segerblom, who helped bring Nevada’s medical pot industry to life in the 2013 and 2015 legislative sessions, the end of this year’s session allows a rare moment of relaxation. Before getting back to work on the industry’s next steps, Segerblom said he’s taking at least Tuesday to celebrate and rest.

“A lot of times we have great ideas but we can’t get them through the process,” he said. “People really worked together this time to make it happen.”



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