On November 8, 2016, the citizens of Nevada approved the legalization of recreational marijuana along with California, Maine and Alaska to join Washington, Oregon, Colorado and the District of Columbia forging new ground in marijuana programs of their own.
On November 8, 2016, the citizens of Nevada approved the legalization of recreational marijuana along with California, Maine and Alaska to join Washington, Oregon, Colorado and the District of Columbia forging new ground in marijuana programs of their own. Starting up a new heavily regulated and taxed retail industry is a challenge for any state; but, cannabis has its own unique obstacles with Federal discord and the lack of banking. We are in good stead however as the State of Nevada has never backed down when it comes to taking on incongruous regulatory challenges. The NV Department of Taxation in conjunction with the NV Department of Agriculture has set the ambitious goal of July 1, 2017 for recreational cannabis sales under temporary regs and licenses for existing MMEs that choose to merge into the retail lane.
The current MMJ market in Nevada is limited to approximately 26,000 Nevada MMJ cardholders; about the same number coming in from out of state, and no doubt some gray and black market transactions. Looking toward a seamless, early rollout of a Nevada retail cannabis market, I only see a staggering escalation in the number of likely cannabis consumers. Let’s take a look at the numbers. The approximate 2 million Southern Nevadans over 21 who do not hold a medical card when combined with the 42 million tourists passing through Las Vegas every year, we arrive at our starting number of 44 million potential recreational cannabis users. If we take the ultra-conservative guess that only 1% of those 44 million are likely cannabis users while in Las Vegas, that is still 0.44 million or 440,000 cannabis customers! Going from 26,000 MMJ cardholders to 440,000 is a 16.9X-fold increase in volume! What if that number is closer to a conservative 10%? Well now we are talking 4.4 million cannabis customers! Whether the ultra-conservative or the conservative prediction turns out to be correct, that type of meteoric, volumetric increase will be unique to only one place, VEGAS BABY! The dramatic increase in demand will reverberate from the cultivator to the producer, independent third-party testing lab and onto dispensary and all ancillary suppliers. We should all be looking around and asking the same question, will Nevada’s existing cannabis production, testing and dispensing capabilities be agile enough to equal the demand and supply of cannabis and cannabis-based products that retail could sell? Today I have to say that it is hard to not envision a cannabis shortage in Nevada right around Labor Day.
Above all let’s learn from the other states that have already jumped into the duality of regulating the production, testing and distribution of both medical and retail cannabis, notably that would be Washington, Oregon and Colorado. From experience, we know that standing up to the dichotomy of the two cannabis programs presents an enormous opportunity to reflect on what has worked and did not work under the medical program and iron out the wrinkles moving forward.
I am happy to report that Nevada is currently going through that rather cumbersome and stalwart process of writing temporary regs for retail cannabis by looking back in order to see the path forward. There are however weighty intricacies at play and seemingly in the hands of a few self-selected individuals with their own interests closely held. For example, what are the necessary boundaries between medical and retail? What designates a batch or a dose? And what about eliminating strain deception with mandatory strain authentication? What about instituting required homogeneity testing of edibles? Maybe it is a good idea to test cannabis extracts for adulterants after all? Vape cartridge ingredient disclosure? Should there be limits on the quantity of cannabis a tourist can purchase? And what State agency presides over what aspects of the roll out? Let’s not forget about medical cannabis and the patients currently served under that program.
I am confident that Nevada is going to get it right, ultimately focusing on patient and consumer safety. And you, the reader, should be doing your part by being a participant in the process. Give public comment. Stand up for those who can’t and be an advocate for the cannabis consumer, demand full disclosure of ingredients in your vape cartridge, support your local independent testing labs as they are your friendly, scientific gatekeepers ensuring cannabis product safety and authenticity at the dispensary.