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Thursday, July 13, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The potheads and the revenooers of Nevada are in the throes of a marijuana emergency. It’s not that the potheads are smoking too much of it. It’s that the revenooers can’t get enough of it to the potheads. There’s plenty of pot but there aren’t enough drivers to transport the weed to the legal market.

When the question of whether to allow sales for recreational pot for anyone older than 21 was drawn up for a referendum, the lobbyists for wine and liquor interests managed to get a provision inserted in the language that stipulated that only wholesale distributors of booze could take marijuana to market for the first 18 months of the law’s effect.


This put control of the market in the hands of those who are not eager to help a competitor, and the state of Nevada’s Department of Taxation warns that “this nascent industry could grind to a halt.” The grind, naturally, means reduced revenue for the state. The state had banked on enormous revenues from marijuana sales, having enacted a 10 percent tax on sales of reefers, and a separate 15 percent levy on growers. The state counted on millions of dollars for schools and other projects, and quickly went to court to try to loosen restrictions on getting the weed to market.

But a judge said not so fast, that the state must go through the slow-moving regulatory process it prescribes for everyone else, lost revenues or not. The Department of Taxation nevertheless calls the shortage in the pot shops an emergency. If something is not done quickly, the marijuana industry would soon function no better than a typical pothead. Gov. Brian Sandoval, who did not support legalization, has ordered emergency hearings on how to speed up the transport of marijuana to market.

The state Department of Taxation, which regulates the sale of marijuana, told the Los Angeles Times that it had received several applications from distributors of alcohol, who would be eligible to transport reefers to market, but none had met licensing requirements, which include background and security checks.

“It’s important that the distribution issue gets resolved,” says Riana Durrett, director of the Nevada Dispensary Association, an advocate for the pot shops. “If not, sales will be halted completely.”

This gives the tax collectors a headache that pot can’t relieve. The state dispensary association estimates that in the first four days of legalization the pot shops sold up to $5 million worth of the weed. Do the math, and it’s easy to see why the tax collectors are eager to “collude,” to use the season’s most fashionable word, with the pot shops. As emergencies in the lives of tax collectors go, this one is about as dire as they get.


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