Bill drafted to keep marijuana sales out of black market

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In one month, marijuana will be legal for adults 21 and over in Nevada, but there’s one problem.

Come January 1, unless you have a medical marijuana card, there’s nowhere to legally buy it. Lawmakers will try to prevent people from turning to the black market.

They are turning to other states that have dealt with this issue.

Colorado has been down this road and most recently Oregon had to work through it.

A few Nevada lawmakers just returned from Portland. State Senator Tick Segerblom wants to follow their lead on how to tackle that issue.

“They allowed the existing medical dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana and as far as we could tell, there’s no reason we couldn’t do that in Nevada,” said Senator Tick Segerblom, (D) Las Vegas.

The senator’s staff is currently drafting a bill that would temporarily allow recreational sales at medical dispensaries.

It would simply require dispensaries to charge the additional local and state taxes — somewhere between 15 to 20 percent — to non-medical cardholders.

Segerblom says time is critical because the state is missing out on revenue.

Oregon, for example, is collecting $4 million a month.

“I think, given our tourist economy, we could double that, so we’re looking at close to $100 million in just taxes that we’re losing,” Segerblom said.

Colorado was the first state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana and they faced similar problems.

“You had a combination of not a lot of stores open, and record demand, it’s a pretty simple supply-and-demand equation you had, that saw very, very high prices and the black market was still around,” said Adam Orens, founding partner, Marijuana Policy Group. 

But after recreational sales started, the state’s top regulator estimated legal sales cut sharply into illegal street transactions.

“There was roughly a billion dollars inside the licensed market (in sales), and so logic would tell us that’s a billion dollars taken out of black market sales,” said Andrew Freedman, director of marijuana coordination, state of Colorado.

The temporary sales model would last until the Department of Taxation comes out with the licensing regulations for recreational dispensaries.

Until mid 2018, only existing medical marijuana establishments can apply for a recreational license since they are compliant with current regulations.

After that, new businesses can apply for licenses.

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