Vegas, Baby: Retail Cannabis Shops Could Open in July

Published on February 9, 2017 · Last updated July 28, 2020
Aerial view over Las Vegas close to sunset at twilight. Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Recreational marijuana shops could open in Nevada as early as July 1 under a timeline proposed by the state’s top tax official Wednesday.

Regulators at the state Department of Taxation have been crafting rules and deadlines to govern recreational marijuana since Nevada voters legalized it for adults 21 and older in November.

Executive Director Deonne Contine told a panel of state lawmakers that she expects to publicize a draft of those regulations in March and begin accepting applications for temporary licenses to sell recreational cannabis in May — well in advance of the state’s Jan. 1, 2018 deadline.

Temporary licenses will be open only to medical marijuana shops in good standing with the state. Contine said she’s aiming to green-light those businesses to sell to the public by July 1.

Based on Contine’s tentative timeline, any entrepreneur could apply for a license to sell recreational marijuana in Nevada as soon as October 2018. The latest that could happen is July 2019.

Nevada’s regulations will borrow heavily from the state’s medical marijuana rules and Colorado’s recreational marijuana rules, Contine said. They’ll include a formula to set the wholesale price of cannabis, which will determine how much the state collects under a voter-approved 15 percent excise tax. They regulations also define who can transport marijuana and how.

While tax regulators work on those rules, an official who oversees the state’s medical marijuana industry, Joe Pollock, is growing concerned of how commercial cannabis will affect the drug landscape in Nevada.

“Basically the rurals don’t have dispensaries,” Pollock said of medical marijuana shops. “If anything, I would be worried that the black market would move toward those rural counties because the recreational marijuana will not be available conveniently in those counties.”

Of the roughly 25,000 medical marijuana patients in Nevada, 482 of them are under the age of 21, according to Pollock, deputy administrator of the state’s Division of Public and Behavioral Health. Unless Nevada ensures medical cards and prices less expensive than recreational cannabis, Pollock said, those minors are some of the only patients with an incentive to continue using the medical track.

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