Nevada LegislatureSocial Justice

Dollars and Sense: “Filling the Pothole”, or Why Marijuana Is Front and Center This #NVLeg Session

Governor Brian Sandoval (R) and Nevada Legislature leaders are “seeing green” in more ways than one this year. Not only are they looking at ways to balance the budget, but they’re particularly turning to one “magical herb” to “fill the pothole”. Below the fold, we’ll examine the heightened importance of marijuana to the State of Nevada.

Last fall, Nevada voters passed Question 2 to legalize the use and sale of recreational marijuana.

At his final State of the State address in January, Governor Sandoval proposed a 10% excise tax on recreational marijuana sales. When the Trump Administration hinted at possible marijuana raids last month, #NVLeg Democratic leaders doubled down on the importance of voters’ decision and the Governor’s tax plan. Now that the Trump Administration seems to be backing away from earlier threats, the state is moving ahead on implementation of Question 2.

Senator Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) wants to speed up the process. Why? “[The Governor’s] budget calls for $100 million [in tax revenue] over the next two years. That could be on the high side.” SB 302 will allow recreational marijuana sales to begin this July. Segerblom said this is needed in order for the state to meet the Governor’s target of $100 million in tax revenue next biennium.

Segerblom spoke with pride about how “we already have the best system in the country” for medical marijuana. He also appreciated how the state is “moving quickly” in implementing the regulatory infrastructure for recreational marijuana. Still, he feels SB 302 can help Sandoval get that up and running even sooner. Why?

“Nevada is already the #2 most searched destination. […] The money will come from marijuana tourism.” – Senator Tick Segerblom

Segerblom has already been making his case for SB 236 to allow for marijuana use at designated businesses and events. During that hearing earlier this month, supporters touted the potential impact of marijuana users’ ability to congregate and light up during concerts and/or in clubs. Their hope is that more marijuana friendly environments will encourage more marijuana themed tourism, which will make Sandoval’s goal of $100 million in pot revenue more feasible.

As we’ve discussed before, marijuana is an increasingly critical component of the state budget. That $100 million will especially come in handy for Sandoval’s proposed education budgets. Without that revenue, Nevada’s already complicated fiscal landscape could worsen.

Segerblom’s goal is to have essentially the same regulatory structure in place for recreational marijuana as the state already has for medical marijuana. As long as the Legislature can lay all this groundwork by early June, “we’re off to the races”.

Several marijuana bills will be heard in the coming days, including allowing medical marijuana research, vacating marijuana charges that are no longer criminal offenses thanks to Question 2, and revising the rules for marijuana labeling and packaging. Segerblom welcomes these bills, as he feels this is simply a response to the will of the people. “The voters have spoken. We have the industry.”

“We just need to recognize that’s the reality, and deal with it.” – Senator Tick Segerblom

The Senate Judiciary Committee just heard five marijuana bills today. State officials plan to have the infrastructure ready to begin taxing and regulating recreational marijuana by July 1. The Legislature just introduced SB 508 to set the 10% recreational marijuana excise tax proposed by Sandoval. Senator Segerblom has been hoping all along to move quickly on implementation of recreational marijuana. Fortunately for him, Governor Sandoval and state tax collectors agree.

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