For decades, Las Vegas has been a place known to play fast and loose – and this is even becoming evident in our emerging Marijuana Industry. On January 16, 2018, hundreds of citizens, business owners, and marijuana consumers met to provide public comment on the proposed set of permanent regulations issued by the Nevada Department of Taxation at a public hearing. Taxation in Nevada certifies, audits, coordinates and educates hundreds of state-certified marijuana establishments such as dispensaries, cultivation facilities, production facilities and independent testing laboratories. In 2016, over 600,000 Nevadan’s voted to legalize marijuana, giving the Department of Taxation the authority to regulate the operation of Marijuana Establishments, award and limit licensing, and carry-out other provisions of ballot measure 2. However, due to lack of transparency in the scoring process outlined in the proposed regulations for how these licenses are awarded, dozens went on the record to speak out to the Commision in opposition.
There were many areas of concern, but because there is little clarity on how the applications for licenses are granted, it would appear there is instead, favors being given to Insiders. Multiple licenses of varying types are being awarded to the same small group of millionaires, allowing for extremely monopolistic practices. When an entity is able to cultivate, produce and dispense all of their own product, there is little incentive to vertically integrate other brands. Cultivators of great brands without a dispensing license are unable to sell their own product, leaving the success of their business in the hands of Dispensaries. In addition, license holders are able to resell licenses, and due to a cap on how many will be issued, the current value of a license is approximately $10 million. This bears significance on who is able to establish themselves in this surfacing industry and is shutting potential small businesses and minorities out. This over-burdened cost to obtain a license dramatically impacts the price tag on products available in the marketplace. Including the marijuana tax, ? of cannabis in Las Vegas is on average $65! Patients and locals have not only been faced with extreme costs but competition with tourists, resulting in limited availability.
After nearly 3 hours of public comment, the Taxation Commision still made a motion to move forward with the proposal after ZERO deliberation. Because it’s not too late, we are asking Nevadans to urge the Legislation to insist the Department of Taxation extend their deadline of March 1st in order to revisit the verbiage, paying close attention to what the Department can and cannot do according to Question 2. With other States looking at Nevada as a model for a successful program, it is vital the regulations be revisited to ensure fairness and inclusion instead of monopolies and reverting back to old Las Vegas ways.
Frank Sinatra once said, “Las Vegas is the only place I know where money really talks–it says, “Goodbye,”.”
Madisen Saglibene is the Executive Director of Las Vegas NORML.