- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2017

Nevada regulators may have staved off an imminent marijuana shortage by approving emergency rules meant to stop the state’s dispensaries from running out of recreational weed hardly two weeks since starting retail sales.

The Nevada Tax Commission unanimously passed an emergency regulation Thursday revising the state’s rules for issuing marijuana distribution licenses after retailers warned they would otherwise run out of weed and likely have to lay-off workers.

Nevadans voted last November to legalize marijuana, and over 40 dispensaries were authorized to sell recreational weed when the law took effect July 1. Dispensaries can only obtain marijuana from authorized distributors, however, and a provision in the law precludes regulators from letting anyone outside the alcohol industry transport pot until 2019.

Regulators agreed to change its rules for issuing distribution licenses after a lack of applicants prevented dispensaries from restocking their shelves, rejecting a rule giving exclusive transport rights to wholesale alcohol distributors and opening up the application process to distributors already authorized to delivery medical marijuana.

Only seven of Nevada’s nearly 70 liquor distributors had applied for marijuana licenses when retail sales began July 1, and the state only issued its first on Wednesday, nearly two weeks later. A second was approved Thursday, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported, but a lack of interest — especially when compared to the 87 marijuana companies vying for approval — risked sending dispensaries into the red.

“There aren’t enough alcohol distributors serving that market,” Riana Durrett, executive director of the Nevada Dispensary Association, said at a hearing on the matter Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported from Las Vegas. “Without a resolution to this, sales can’t go forward and establishments will have to let employees go.”

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval opposed last year’s recreational marijuana bill but approved the emergency regulation last week. Nevada expects to collect $100 million in taxes from the first year of recreational marijuana sales, but risks coming up short if shops can’t resupply.

Nevada’s few dozen dispensaries sold at least $3 million in marijuana products during the first weekend of retail sales, according to preliminary figures. Recreational taxes vary within the state but typically range between 33 and 38 percent.

Marijuana can be bought for recreational use in four other states: Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and Washington state. California and Maine are expected to follow suit in 2018.

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