Nevada’s first medical marijuana dispensary opens in Reno on July 31, 2015. Andy Barron
The legalized marijuana industry is growing more than pot. Analysts say it could create over a quarter of a million jobs while other industries decline.(Photo: USA TODAY video still)
Now that Nevada has the green light to move forward with its early start recreational marijuana program, it could set the national record for the fastest turnaround of retail reefer. In a rush for kush, the state is attempting to power forward with recreational marijuana sales in a mere eight months since voters approved Question 2 in November. That’s faster than any other state so far.
The ballot question made it kosher for anyone over the age of 21 to possess up to an ounce of weed and up to an eighth-ounce of concentrate, but the actual sale and purchase of recreational marijuana will not be legal until July 1. Under the recently approved early start program, existing medical marijuana dispensaries that are in “good standing” will be eligible to sell recreational marijuana.
“We have so many people coming in every day and calling in every day asking when we’ll have (recreational marijuana),” said Bobbie Macfarlane, assistant manager of Sierra Wellness Connection, a dispensary in Reno.
Nevada, first in line
California, Maine and Massachusetts also voted in November to legalize recreational marijuana, but the Silver State will be the first of the pool to take the plunge into legal sales. California is expected to be about six months behind Nevada, starting its sales in January 2018, same as Maine. Sales in Massachusetts, where adults can have more than double the Nevada limit, won’t begin until mid-2018.
A main incentive for the early start program indeed stems from Gov. Brian Sandoval s proposed budget request, which includes $70 million from recreational marijuana taxes over the next two years to support education. Officials also want to squash the thriving black market, since possessing recreational pot has been legal since January.
“Nevada’s (system) is much more advanced than smaller states. You already have rigorous testing and security, two of the biggest challenges,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Denver-based Marijuana Policy Project. The push for recreational sales to happen sooner than later also has its critics.
“We re trying to truncate the process. I mean, where did this early start program even begin?” said Jim Hartman, a staunch opponent of marijuana legalization. Hartman, a retired lawyer in Carson City, often appears at the Nevada Legislature to voice his qualms with the state’s swift pace with legalization. He has noted on several accounts that Nevada is moving far quicker than he is comfortable with.
“To me it s a backroom agreement to get tax receipts,” Hartman said.
The Marijuana Policy Project is nonpartisan but has been behind many of the lobbying efforts in states moving towards the emerald glow of legalization. The first states that legalized recreational marijuana Colorado and Washington state waited more than a year after they voted in 2012 to approve legal sales, but they were the pioneers of the movement. Following their footsteps, Oregon and Alaska voted and waited about a year (even though marijuana has technically been legal in Alaska since 1975, according to its state constitution).
“Of the states that have legalized marijuana, two of them had kind of a unique situations: Washington and Alaska, they were starting from scratch. There were no testing rules, there were no licensing rules,” O’Keefe said. Those living in Washington, D.C., which voted in 2014, can possess, cultivate and donate weed, but sales are still couched.
Ready, set, go
As Nevada prepares for full-throttle legalization, the Nevada Department of Taxation, which is tasked with overseeing the recreational marijuana industry, is working hand-in-hand with the Department of Health and Human Services, which has overseen the state’s medical marijuana program. Although Nevada legalized medical marijuana in 2000, the state did not approve regulations until 2013, and the industry did not get off the ground until 2015. Since then, green has gone wild.
The state’s medical marijuana program had 60 medical marijuana dispensaries, 88 cultivation facilities, 57 production companies and 11 testing laboratories in Nevada as of May 10, the most recent survey of medical marijuana establishments by the state health department. Nearly 28,000 in-state cardholders are enlisted as of May, and Nevada’s dispensaries also serve cardholders from out-of-state thanks to the in-state reciprocity laws. One of the concerns that dispensaries have is how they will separate medical and recreational product since much of it is the same product, but taxed differently. Their greatest concern is that they could run out of supply for medical cardholders.
Several legislative bills could change the marijuana tax structure, but, for the time being, recreational marijuana will be sold with a 15 percent wholesale tax.
Since Nevada legalized recreational marijuana, anyone 21 and over can possess up to 1 ounce in-state. How many people actually could look at an ounce and identify it, though? We’re here to help educate you. (Photo: Jenny Kane/RGJ)
Medical marijuana will be sold with a 2 percent wholesale tax. Medical marijuana also carries a 2 percent tax applied at production and another 2 percent tax applied at sale.
“It’s tough because we’re still trying to figure out the laws,” said Macfarlane, from Sierra Wellness Connection. Current bills being considered by the Nevada Legislature address everything from packaging requirements to municipality taxes and fees to research guidelines, and even the industry regulations could change when the temporary ones switch over to the permanent ones in January. It doesn’t help that, since marijuana is illegal on a federal level, businesses have to deal entirely in cash. Sierra Wellness is hiring a security guard for their location before July.
While there are certainly some stresses that come with the line of work, she still is on board with the state’s momentum.
“(The state is) jumping on the opportunity. Any new industry is stressful. You have to fail a few times, but that’s how you figure it out,” Macfarlane said.
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- ^ Recreational marijuana ‘early start’ program to debut in July (www.rgj.com)
- ^ Nevada marijuana sales could reach $550M annually (www.rgj.com)
- ^ Can I smoke marijuana on my front porch, and other common pot questions (www.rgj.com)
- ^ even though marijuana has technically been legal in Alaska since 1975, according to its state constitution (www.washingtonpost.com)
VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) This year s 4/20 marijuana day of protest in Vancouver cost the city more than $245,000. The city estimates 40,000 people were at Sunset Beach Park and the Vancouver Art Gallery during the April 20 protest. The city says in a news release that police costs came to over $170,000, while other costs such as sanitation, and fire and rescue pushed the costs even higher.
The Park Board refused to grant a permit to protest organizers, but the event went ahead without approval. The release says the bill doesn t include ambulance service or hospital costs. It says the damaged field next to Sunset Beach after the event cost about $10,000 to repair.
The city says it will bill the organizers of the Sunset Beach event to recover expenses, but it s still unclear whether they will pay.
We ve been trying to set up a lot of meetings months before, a month and a half before the event. I think we didn t give ourselves enough time to really push the conversation, but we ve met already, we ve handed over the invoice, says Michael Wiebe with the Vancouver Park Board. He adds organizers knew it was coming, and every cost was broken down. Wiebe claims organizers had an idea of the costs before the event, and staff will be sitting down with organizers again to justify costs.
4/20 organizer Dana Larsen says they intend to fulfill their promise and pay back the park-board, but says some of the numbers invoiced need to be ironed out.
It s important to put these numbers in context. About a quarter of that total bill is actually for a different event that we re not affiliated with that took place at the Art Gallery. He adds the money is well-worth spent, considering the crowds generated by the annual event.
I mean we had a Trump Tower protest a few months ago. That cost $100,000 in policing and we only had a few hundred people there. This event is actually very reasonably priced for the number of people that participate, he says.
Organizer Jodie Emery from the Cannabis Cafe says paying the $245,000 is not feasible, or justified.
We re all taxpayers, we all pay for the cost of every event from music festivals to fireworks, to Vaisakhi and pride. So it would be unreasonable to demand that a bunch of volunteers who organized an event the city would have to organize themselves otherwise to pay for that. Emery says instead of asking organizers to pay the costs of things like policing and repairs to Sunset Beach, the park board and city should be thanking them for putting on the event. The activist wants to know why the annual smoke-up is being treated differently. Wiebe there is an incentive for organizers to pay sooner rather than later.
If they re working for the city s help in finding a location and working with them next year, they re probably going to want to do this quicker, because we need to find a location, settle it, put forward and emergency plan, have police, fire ready for next year s event.
With Our Lady Peace, Johnny Reid and Bryan Adams getting ready to play Mosaic Stadium for the second test event, attendees to the concert on Saturday are being asked to take alternative modes of transportation to the stadium.
The whole idea for the plan is for people to get to and from the stadium and not use their vehicles, Mayor Michael Fougere said. Take public transit and taxis to get there. We tested this with the Rams versus Huskies game and it worked very well. The public was very happy with how it was used and they used more transit than ever before. With no public parking at Evraz Place for the concert, and Elphinstone Street closed between Dewdney Avenue and Saskatchewan Drive from 2 p.m. to midnight, Fougere is confident that residents will follow the plan to ensure everyone has a great experience.
If you take public transit, take the shuttle, or take a taxi, you will find that with the closing of Elphinstone, people can walk here easily and easier than if they were trying to find a place to park. Concert attendees can ride transit for free to the stadium if they show their event ticket to the driver. In addition, shuttles will run from 3:45-7 p.m. from Southland Mall, Northgate Mall, Victoria Square Mall, Normanview Crossing, the Delta Hotel and Victoria Park. A bike valet service is being provided at the southwest corner of Confederation Park.
There will also be plenty of security at the event, with 150 security officers patrolling the stadium for the concert, 50 more than the first test event.
Security has to be vigilant from the time people come in the front gate, to the intelligence gathering on an ongoing basis, so we are ready for any event, said Rod Buckingham, game day security commander. We introduced metal detectors last year. We increased that this year and we will continue to monitor that. It does result in getting quite a few items, some prohibited and some illegal. Prohibited items for the concert include outside alcohol, coolers, opened bottles or containers, air horns or sirens, laser pointers, rods, dowels and hockey sticks, as well as UAVs, umbrellas, selfie sticks and any unauthorized advertising.
You have to draw a line somewhere, said Buckingham. It is more about the activity of the people than the item. There are certain standards across arenas and stadiums that we try to stay consistent with. For the upcoming Riders season, 200 cameras will be set up in the new stadium. In addition, a security officer will wear a visiting team s jersey to ensure fans are treated well during games.
People should all have fun. It is an entertainment event, Buckingham said. If someone is ruining your good time, we just need to be prepared to deal with that. Generally speaking, the fans are pretty good here.
For those attending, gates open at 4 p.m. and Our Lady Peace will begin their show at 6 p.m., followed by Johnny Reid at 7:30 p.m. and Bryan Adams at 9 p.m. The concert will end at 11 p.m.