Under a proposal submitted to Nevada lawmakers this week, existing medical cannabis dispensaries would be allowed to sell cannabis to all adults beginning on July 1.
The plan, put forward by the Department of Taxation, would issue temporary “early start” adult-use licenses to certain existing medical marijuana businesses. That would allow nonmedical consumers—including millions of Las Vegas tourists—to purchase cannabis legally while state regulators work to identify and solve any problems before the state begins issuing adult-use licenses next year.
“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,” said Deonne Contine, director of the Taxation Department, told lawmakers at a Carson City hearing on Wednesday, according to the Las Vegas Sun. “We plan to prudently go forward and figure out where we are once we get through the first wave of applications.”
The proposal requires that licensed medical dispensaries be in good standing with state agencies if they hope to get a temporary, “early start” adult-use license, would be valid until Jan. 1, 2018. The Nevada Tax Commission could vote to adopt the proposed regulations when it meets on Monday, May 8.
Applications for the temporary, early-start licenses would be due by May 31. Applicants would need to include a one-time, nonrefundable $5,000 application fee plus a licensing fee based on business type:
- $20,000 for a retail establishment
- $30,000 for a cultivation facility
- $10,000 for a production/manufacturing facility
- $15,000 for a testing facility
- $15,000 for a cannabis distributor
Applications would need to be submitted by the same entity that holds the medical marijuana establishment certificate. To earn good standing, a company must go more than six months without a suspension of its state-issued license, Contine said.
Proponents of the plan have argued that opening retail stores sooner rather than later would deter purchases from illegal dealers, boost tourism, and ensure that consumers have access to lab-tested products from licensed producers.
Some existing license holders, however, complained that the process was too selective and left out current medical marijuana companies that have yet to open for business. “We’ve waited a decade to start this program, and now we’re getting a cut-off date of May 31,” said Larry Smith, of G5 Cultivation and Wellness Connection of Nevada, according to the Sun. “That’s not fair to me.”
In a written comment to the commission, Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, expressed concerns with language in the proposal that would maintain the confidentiality of license applicants. That provision, he wrote, “appears to create an exception to Nevada public records law, NRS 239,” that could create confusion around zoning, regulatory compliance, and other matters affecting residents.
“Would a local jurisdiction,” Smith asked, “be able to hold a public hearing determining if an applicant was in compliance?”
Although state regulators appear open to the early license proposal, local regulations could slow the rollout in some districts. The City of Henderson, for example, has already put in place a six-month moratorium on cannabis businesses.