Regulators agreed to change its rules for issuing distribution licenses after a lack of applicants prevented dispensaries from restocking their shelves, rejecting a rule giving exclusive transport rights to wholesale alcohol distributors and opening up the application process to distributors already authorized to delivery medical marijuana.
When voters first voted for recreational pot in November, they voted to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
Almost 50 dispensaries in the Las Vegas area have licenses to sell marijuana for recreational use.
The State Tax Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on an emergency measure Gov. Brian Sandoval endorsed late last week in an effort to allow the state to issue pot distribution licenses now banned by a court order.
So far, fewer than 10 alcohol wholesalers have applied for pot distribution licenses and as of last week none had met the qualifications, the Nevada Department of Taxation said. Meanwhile, the state's Tax Commission, which is in charge of the state's cannabis industry, passed an emergency law that would allow for more distribution licenses.
The state has filed an appeal asking the Nevada Supreme Court to overturn Carson City Judge James Wilson's ruling prohibiting distribution licenses for anyone other than alcohol wholesalers.
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As of Thursday, the same day the tax department was set to hear the emergency proposal it approved, at least two distributors were finally licensed, director Deonne Contine told The Los Angeles Times. One was approved Wednesday and another Thursday. She said the regulation would allow the department to determine if there was an appetite outside the liquor wholesalers to become distributors.
"Without the ability to license marijuana distributors to continue the flow of product to the retail store, a high likelihood exists that consumers will revert to the black market", Contine said. Exactly who will be allowed to move weed hasn't been decided yet.
Most recreational retailers were previously licensed under a 2-year-old medical marijuana program and many were distributing to themselves. This created a lawsuit that almost delayed the opening of the first retail shops, as alcohol wholesalers fought medical marijuana distributors for the right to produce and distribute cannabis for Nevada's legal market. Unless the matter is resolved quickly, the distribution bottleneck will cost both the state and investors millions of dollars, thousands of jobs and "cause this nascent industry to grind to a halt".
The problem: All cannabis sold at recreational dispensaries in Nevada must be shipped there by a licensed distributor, and according to the language in Nevada's successful legalization ballot measure, the only qualified companies happened to be liquor wholesalers.
They urged the commissioners to approve an emergency regulation backed by the governor to allow some pot retailers to serve as their own distributors if there aren't enough alcohol distributors to do the job.