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)
NEW YORK | Target Corp. has reached an $18.5 million settlement over a massive data breach that occurred before Christmas in 2013, New York’s attorney general announced Tuesday. The agreement involving 47 states, including South Dakota, and the District of Columbia is the largest multistate data breach settlement to date, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office said. The settlement, which stipulates some security measures the retailer must adhere to, resolves the states’ probe into the breach. A news release from South Dakota Attorney General Jackley said South Dakota will receive $174,248 as part of the settlement.
This is a strong reminder that data breaches are sadly becoming more common and we must all guard against those who attempt to take personal identifying information and cause financial harm. Every consumer in South Dakota should get in the habit of accessing their free credit report to be alerted on matters affecting their credit, Jackley said in the release.
There are five Target stores in South Dakota, including one in Rapid City. Target spokeswoman Jenna Reck said in a statement that the company has been working with state authorities for several years to address claims related to the breach.
“We’re pleased to bring this issue to a resolution for everyone involved,” she said. Target had announced the breach on Dec. 19, 2013, saying it occurred between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 of that year. It affected more than 41 million customer payment card accounts and exposed contact information for more than 60 million customers.
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The breach forced Target to overhaul its security system and the company offered free credit reports for potentially affected shoppers. Target’s sales, profit and stock price all suffered months after the disclosure as shoppers were nervous about their security of their credit cards. The breach also contributed to the departure of Target’s then-CEO, chairman and president Gregg Steinhafel, who resigned in May 2014. CEO Brian Cornell took the helm in August 2014. Target’s data breach was the first in a series of scams that hit other retailers including SuperValu and Home Depot. It forced the retail industry, banks and card companies to increase security and sped the adoption of microchips into U.S. credit and debit cards. An investigation by the states found that in November 2013, scammers got access to Target’s server through credentials stolen from a third-party vendor. They used those credentials to take advantage of holes in Target’s systems, accessing a customer service database and installing malware that was used to capture data, including full customer names, telephone numbers, email and mailing addresses, credit card numbers, expiration dates and encrypted debit PINs.
The settlement requires Target to maintain appropriate encryption policies and take other security steps, though the company has already implemented those measures. Reck said the costs of the settlement are reflected in the reserves that Target has previously disclosed.
House lawmakers called on the Trump administration Thursday to punish Turkey for the violence that Turkish security forces visited upon protesters in Washington this month, including blocking future visits to the U.S. by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“We have a message for [Erdogan]: We don’t need people like you visiting the United States anymore,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who chairs the Foreign Affairs subcommittee for Europe, said during a hearing Thursday. “Erdogan should never again be invited to the United States.”
Erdogan outraged U.S. leaders by dispatching members of his security detail to attack protesters against his regime who had assembled outside the Turkish embassy in D.C. during his visit to meet President Trump. Turkey is a critical NATO ally, but the strategic importance of the relationship isn’t deterring lawmakers from pushing Trump to make Erdogan regret the crackdown.
“This was an attack on American sovereignty,” Calif. Rep. Brad Sherman, a senior Democrat on the committee, said during the hearing. “Quasi-military forces of a foreign nation beat and attacked Americans on American soil. This was deliberate, because Erdogan believes that this helps him politically back in Turkey. We have to demonstrate to the world that aggression on American soil is not going to pay off.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s team summoned the Turkish ambassador to State Department for a formal rebuke, but Erdogan’s government didn’t show contrition. Instead, they responded by summoning the U.S. ambassador to the Turkish Foreign Ministry for a dressing-down of their own.
“A written and verbal protest was delivered due to the aggressive and unprofessional actions taken, contrary to diplomatic rules and practices, by U.S. security personnel towards the close protection team [of the Turkish ambassador],” the Foreign Ministry said. The tete-a-tete could complicate an already tense relationship between two NATO allies. Erdogan has blamed the United States for a failed coup attempt last year. Turkish officials are also angry that the Obama and Trump administrations are working with a group of Syrian Kurds YPG, which has ties to another group Turkey views as terrorists in the fight against ISIS. Sherman wants to expel the Turkish ambassador for lying about American personnel, and he has a list of proposals to compel a personal apology from Erdogan. His list starts with spurning any Turkish concerns about the YPG. He also wants the Trump administration to recognize the Armenian genocide, in which the Ottoman Empire killed about 1.5 million Armenians over an eight-year period.
On the financial side, Sherman wants to bar Americans from purchasing Turkish government debt “until we get a formal apology from Erdogan.”
“I realize such an apology might be politically difficult for him,” Sherman said. “That’s the point. We have to illustrate this or we will have other leaders attacking Americans both in their country or in ours for their political reasons.”
U.S. and Turkish diplomats seem inclined to let the matter drop rather than risk interference in counterterrorism efforts, but House leaders plan to vote on a resolution rebuking Erdogan over the attack.
“He is an enemy of everything we stand for,” Rohrabacher said. “More importantly, he is an enemy of his own people and we should side with the people of Turkey, not with their oppressor.”