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Goal is for July 1 retail marijuana sales, Nevada official says
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
Marijuana dispensaries may start selling recreational weed within Nevada as soon as July 1, the state tax board voted Monday, six months earlier than previously expected. While Nevadans voted last November in favor of legalizing marijuana, lawmakers aren’t expected to draft rules governing the state’s recreational weed program until January 2018. With medical marijuana dispensaries already legally operating across the state, however, the Nevada Tax Commission on Monday voted 6-1 in favor of granting temporary retail licenses to currently existing pot shops. Monday’s decision means licensed medical-marijuana dispensaries in Nevada can submit applications to the state Department of Taxation starting May 15 seeking permission to sell their wares to patrons other than patients. Dispensaries deemed to be in good standing with the state are expected to receive the first temporary licenses July 1, at which point they’ll be legally allowed to serve medical and recreational weed customers alike. Temporary retail licenses will expire January 2018, giving the state several months to study the immediate impact of legalizing marijuana before finalizing the framework for its voter-approved recreational weed program. Indeed, politicians have said they expect retail weed will do wonders for Nevada’s coffers, provided of course its recreational pot program gets off the ground without a hitch. Gov. Brian Sandoval said he intends for recreational marijuana to rake in $70 million within its first two years, the likes of which may not be easily achievable unless some pot shops are given a head-start. “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,” Deonne Contine, the director of the state Department of Taxation, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Nonetheless, medical dispensaries across the state are hardly guaranteed a business boom as a result of Monday’s vote: marijuana retailers in Nevada require approval from both state and local officials to operate, but not all jurisdictions have given the green-light just yet to recreational marijuana. While Clark County and its largest city, Las Vegas, plan to license pot shops July 1, Henderson — the state’s second most-populous city — previously passed a moratorium barring any pot shops from opening until at least August, the Review-Journal reported. Nevada and three other states voted last November to approve recreational marijuana, bringing the total number of states to legalize weed to nine, including Washington, D.C., notwithstanding weed remaining a Schedule I narcotic, according to the federal government.