LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Nevada voters gave the green light to recreational cannabis in 2016, and the industry has since budded with business growth.

However, for it to grow any further, cannabis experts said certain obstacles need to go up in smoke.

The Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board (NCCB) said there are 99 active dispensaries statewide, with 72 of them in Southern Nevada.

Voters in 2016 chose to regulate the sale of their products in a similar fashion as alcohol: a 15% wholesale tax and a 10% retail adult-use excise tax.

The Nevada Department of Taxation reported $152,334,798 in tax revenue last fiscal year and, so far this fiscal year, $77,150,028. That 10% retail tax goes towards K-12 education across Nevada, per 2019’s SB545.

Despite the high taxation, dispensary owners, such as Tree of Life, said they are flourishing. Founder MJ Jameson says her “mom-and-pop” cannabis retail store is family owned and celebrated its first year of operation this week.

“We founded the dispensary for the sole purpose of giving back,” Jameson said amid 4/20-themed decorations inside her Jones Boulevard store Thursday morning.

She said the store is one of the only minority, woman, and queer-owned dispensaries in the state.

In just the first year, Jameson said they’ve raised $140,000 through a round-up program, which was donated to local charities, like Volunteers for Medicine, The Salvation Army, and the LGBTQ Center of Southern Nevada.

The boom has also yielded an increased demand for skilled workers in cannabis retail, cultivation, and extraction.

Green Flower, a cannabis education company, began teaching courses at the College of Southern Nevada this year.

Vice President of Higher Education Daniel Kalef said the roles not only pay well but provide an easier path to workplace advancement as many businesses within the industry are fairly new.

“On average, most jobs in the cannabis industry are paying about 20% more than similar counterparts, whether it be in retail or other areas,” Kalef said during a virtual interview Thursday. “(The demand is) not going away, it continues to grow.”

However, the continuing success may lose some of its momentum due to continuing obstacles. Layke Martin, executive director of the Nevada Cannabis Association, said those “significant” obstacles lie both on the state and federal levels.

Locally, she pointed to illegal and unlicensed businesses operating in the “shadows.”

“Licensed companies can’t deliver to the strip. So, unlicensed companies have kind of filled that void. They’re not working with legal dispensaries. They’re bringing in product from California, most often, that’s unlicensed and untested and delivering it to tourists on the strip who don’t know they’re purchasing, in many cases, something that’s illegal,” Martin said during a virtual interview Thursday morning. “(It) not only hinders the growth of the licensed Cannabis industry, but it’s diverting tax revenue away from the state.”

Federally, marijuana is still scheduled on the same level as highly addictive drugs like heroin.

It prevents the import or export of cannabis products outside of the state and requires higher fees to support regulation efforts.

“Anything that’s grown in the state has to be sold in the state,” Martin said. “These are all issues that could be addressed through descheduling.”

As it stands now, the next major advancement in the local industry will come via consumption lounges. Martin describes these as public “tasting rooms” for cannabis products that will allow public consumption, which is currently prohibited.

NCCB randomly selected 40 businesses to receive licenses for these lounges in November, and a representative tells 8 News Now that they are still vetting those finalists.

The first lounge is expected to open by the end of this year, the representative added.

The Nevada legislature additionally voted this session to support de-scheduling cannabis as a Schedule I substance federally through AJR8.