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Nevada lawmakers are trying to address everything from marijuana users’ gun rights to the danger that edible marijuana products pose to children.
Wochit

Two Democrat lawmakers are trying to cut the ribbon on the recreational marijuana program before the state does.

Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblyman Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, pushed for an Early Start program for recreational marijuana sales during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Friday. They presented the bill, Senate Bill 302, as a way to help Gov. Brian Sandoval meet his goal of making $100 million off of the fledgling program and also as a way to smother the existing black market.

The Early Start program would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to begin selling recreational product immediately if it passes, although the Department of Taxation already plans to get recreational product on dispensary shelves by July 1. It is unclear if the bill truly could catalyze a program that already is on a fast track.

“I don’t know about timing. Everything can be quickly, it just depends on how much you want to spend,” Department of Taxation Director Deonne Contine told the Judiciary Committee.

By law, recreational marijuana will be available to Nevadans no later than Jan. 1, 2018.

Under Segerblom and Yeager’s bill, the tax on marijuana sales would be significantly higher than those that currently are in place for marijuana. The bill would eliminate the 2 percent wholesale tax and raise it to a 5 percent state tax for medical marijuana, charged upon sale, and a 15 percent state tax for recreational marijuana, also charged upon sale.

Segerblom argued that the tax structure under SB 302 would collect significantly more money for the State Distributive School Account because the market price of marijuana is so much higher than the wholesale price. Seventy-five percent of the income would go toward schools and the remainder would go toward the Department of Taxation and local governments footing the cost of oversight.

Opponents of the bill questioned whether the bill would truly “kill the black market” and also whether the state needed to rush the program.

Jim Hartman, a vocal critic of marijuana legalization, noted that many states wait six months to a year between legalizing marijuana and the first legal sales.

Segerblom responded that the state could not afford to wait given that the governor announced in February that he planned to make $100 million from recreational marijuana industry during the next two years.

Sen. Becky Harris, R-Las Vegas, also asked about whether the “integrity” of the state’s software programs was secure enough to move forward considering that the Department of Health and Human Services’ medical marijuana distributors’ license applications were leaked earlier this year.

Officials from the city of Henderson also expressed concerns that the Early Start program would interfere with the city’s current moratorium on marijuana dispensaries, though the bill would not affect such local measures.

Dispensaries that planned to take advantage of the program would have to first seek approval from their local government officials.

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