Medical pot operations well-positioned for July 1 recreational weed launch


L.E. Baskow

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

Thu, May 4, 2017 (2 a.m.)

Licensed Nevada medical marijuana facilities in good standing with state agencies will be allowed to start selling recreational marijuana on July 1 if the industry’s new state regulating body has its way.

The proposal for temporary “early start” recreational licenses was presented Wednesday evening in front of a joint meeting of the Nevada Assembly and Senate committees on judiciary. The licenses, good for six months, will expire on Jan. 1, said Deonne Contine, director of the Nevada Department of Taxation — allowing the department to identify and solve problems with recreational weed before issuing more state certifications for the industry in 2018.

“Our goal is to get the people that are ready and in good standing going, regulate them and make sure we’re doing the right thing,” Contine said during the hearing in Carson City, which lasted about 100 minutes. “We plan to prudently go forward and figure out where we are once we get through the first wave of applications.”

Nevada medical marijuana facilities — including dispensaries and cultivation and production facilities — earn good standing by going more than six months without a suspension of their state-issued licenses under the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, medical weed’s current regulating body, Contine said. Nearly all of Nevada’s 190 current marijuana license holders meet that requirement.

Contine said she expects the Department of Taxation to finalize the proposed regulations by next Monday, and applications for the early start recreational program are due from medical weed license holders by May 31.

The regulations also allow for recreational marijuana facilities to transport their own products, similar to how the current medical marijuana industry is operated, despite language in the voter-approved Ballot Question 2 requiring wholesale liquor distributors to handle delivery of the plant. Contine cited a stipulation in the ballot question text allowing third parties to handle transporting weed only if there were not enough liquor distributors to make the industry functional.

The director argued that with marijuana still being illegal federally, liquor distributors will avoid participating in Nevada’s weed industry to prevent conflict with the federal government and protect their licenses to distribute liquor across the country.

“We don’t know how they can get through the process with regards to their federal licenses,” Contine said.

The Department of Taxation’s proposal was nearly unanimously agreed on and praised by marijuana industry representatives, including members of the Nevada Dispensary Association and the Nevada Cannabis Coalition. Some medical marijuana license holders, including representatives from G5 Cultivation and Wellness Connection of Nevada, argued the process was too selective and left current state license holders whose facilities have yet to open their doors behind.

“We’ve waited a decade to start this program and now we’re getting a cut-off date of May 31,” asked Larry Smith of G5 Cultivation. “That’s not fair to me.”

Contine said that while the Department of Taxation plans to have framework in line for early start recreational marijuana sales to begin on July 1, she warned that additional regulations from counties and local municipalities may prevent some dispensaries from starting sales on that date. Legislators cited a six-month moratorium on marijuana in Henderson as an example of local regulations that could delay the early start process for dispensaries there.

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