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Nevada marijuana cultivators complain before state board votes on rules

Updated January 16, 2018 - 8:58 pm

The Nevada Tax Commission voted unanimously to codify the state’s regulatory structure for recreational marijuana on Tuesday.

The regulations come after several months worth of public workshops conducted last year by the Nevada Tax Department, the body tasked with regulating marijuana in Nevada. The new regulations largely mirror the temporary regulations the industry has operated under since beginning sales July 1. The permanent regulations must be approved by the Legislative Commission at a future meeting that has not yet been scheduled. However, the permanent regulations would have to be approved before temporary ones expire at the end of February.

Notably, the regulations solidify the state’s stance that marijuana home deliveries will continue to be legal going forward and lays out procedures that detail how licenses will be awarded as well as operating procedures for marijuana businesses.

But the approval on Tuesday came with pushback from the some in the marijuana industry who want a bite of the marijuana dispensary apple. Several marijuana business executives took to the public comment period Tuesday to air out their concerns with the 258-page regulations that the eight-member Tax Commission approved.

“It’s supposed to be fair, it’s supposed to be transparent. It’s not supposed to be a good old boys network,” Brett Pojunis, director of Players Network, Inc., a publicly traded marijuana company, said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Many, like Pojunis, worry that the regulations favor current dispensary license holders when dozens of dispensary licenses will be available this year, as is set out in Question 2, the 2016 ballot initiative that legalized marijuana for adults 21 and older in Nevada.

Marijuana growers also argued that the new regulations put cultivators who do not own a dispensary license at a disadvantage compared with those who own both.

The reason, they said, is that those vertically integrated companies can buy marijuana from themselves and never have to go to standalone cultivators, which could mean cultivators could go out of business if they cannot get a dispensary license.

Tax Department Director Deonne Contine noted that because it is a constitutional amendment, Question 2 cannot be changed for three years — including the number of dispensary licenses the state can issue. But Contine noted that the regulations, and eventually the laws, could change as the industry evolves.

“There will likely be changes to this program for many years to come,” Contine said.

After the vote, Tax Commissioner George Kelesis took a few shots at the cultivators who used the public comment period to lobby for changes to the regulations, and questioned whether they provided input during the public workshops last year.

“Where were you when the legislature passed this? Where were you when the workshops were being done?” Kelesis asked.

Kelesis said he believes “the regulations are fair,” and echoed Contine in saying he is “sure that there are things that are going to have to change in the future.”

”These folks,” Kelesis said of the Tax Department, “are not shy about coming back to the commission over issues.”

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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