Recreational marijuana sales approved to begin ahead of schedule
Recreational marijuana sales are less than two months away thanks to the Nevada Tax Commission. The commission voted Monday to adopt temporary regulations proposed by the Department of Taxation, clearing the way for medical marijuana establishments (MME) to apply for their recreational licences and begin selling to the general public July 1, 2017.
Nevadans voted to approve recreational marijuana in November. But currently it is only legal for anyone over 21 to possess an ounce or less of the drug. You can only buy it if you have a medical marijuana card.
"We turn away a ton of people every day," Joey Gilbert, director of governmental affairs for Mynt Cannabis Dispensary, said. "It's legal to possess it, but you can't buy it anywhere. There's an appetite in the city for it."
Monday's vote was the final state hurdle blocking recreational sales. The temporary regulations, known as "early start", allow currently-operating medical marijuana establishments in good standing to apply for recreational sale licenses. The licenses will be denied or revoked if the businesses have any violations or fail to pay taxes. But the early start will close the gap, which allows people to possess and smoke marijuana, but not purchase. It will also allow the state and local governments to see which regulations work and which don't, ahead of the January 1, 2018 deadline, when permanent regulations must be established.
"You have until the permanent [regulations] to make any adjustments," Gilbert said. "These are privilege licenses, so if we screw up the city can take them right away from us."
The focus is now on the local governments. The Reno City Council has been asked to consider a six-month moratorium on recreational sales. Council members decided to wait until these regulations were approved before making any decisions. They will receive an update on the early start regulations at Wednesday's council meeting.
Gilbert says the medical marijuana establishments have already proven they are a benefit to the city.
"We've been selling medical for a few months, and it's made a dramatic impact," he said. "Security's improved. Just recently we had Reno PD here. They were able to apprehend someone who was committing a crime because it was caught on our security footage."
The council will also be looking at proposed ordinance and zoning changes, which would move recreational marijuana establishments to more industrial areas.
Gilbert says Mynt has seen a lot of support from surrounding businesses in downtown, and doesn't want to see the established shops moved.
"We want to be here in a very secure, clean, well-lit area, and we don't want to send tourists and people from the city, local residents, to other places," he said. "We want to be able to have them right here where everyone is. People genuinely feel there's a hustle and bustle about this downtown area, especially this piece of property that hasn't been this way in quite a few years. I hope the city can understand that being right here in the downtown corridor where all the other businesses are, and not over the train tracks in the industrial area, makes sense."
Early start sales are important to state government. Without them, the estimated $70 million in additional revenue the governor placed in his budget won't be available to spend. The state will see immediate revenue starting next week through the application period which ends May 31, 2017. The non-refundable license application fee is $5,000. Additional fee costs range from $10-30,000 depending on the type of establishment applying for the license.
Some people oppose the regulations because they believe the regulations don't give liquor distributors exclusive rights to first sales, which was outlined in the ballot measure approved by voters. The Department of Taxation says it opened up the recreational sales application to medical marijuana establishments because there wasn't enough interest from liquor establishments to sustain the demand. Liquor stores that sell marijuana face the risk of losing their federal liquor licenses.