- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2017

Marijuana dispensaries across Nevada will open their doors to adults 21 and older on Saturday, nearly eight months after residents voted in favor of legalizing retail weed sales.

The Silver State will become the fifth in the nation to allow retail marijuana sales starting 12 a.m. Saturday, putting Nevada in the same company as Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and Washington state.

And until California follows through in 2018, cannabis experts expect Nevada will soon host the nation’s largest market with respect to retail marijuana sales given the state’s already thriving tourism industry: Travelers spent over $66 billion while visiting Nevada last year, by the state’s own accounting, thanks in part to its legal gambling and prostitution industries.

According to state Sen. Tick Segerblom, District 3 Democrat, taxes from recreational marijuana sales may generate as much as $150 million for the Nevada government during the first two years of legalization, or about a quarter of the state’s infrastructure budget for next year, NBC News reported this week.

“I personally think it’s really a game changer,” Mr. Segerblom said. “It’s the last vice that’s going to be made legal, and when you look at other states, this is final straw where we’ll have something else to sell where people can take advantage of it. I don’t think [the economic impact will last] forever, but it will be a period of time when [tourists] can come here and do something they can’t do back home.”

Nevada is one of four states where voters approved ballot measures last November legalizing recreational marijuana, but it’s the first of the few to establish a framework for retail sales. Nevada previously legalized medical marijuana in 2000.

Starting Saturday morning, licensed medical marijuana dispensaries that are granted both state and local approval can begin selling products to non-patients. Those pot shops will be able to sell up to an ounce of marijuana to customers 21 and over, or one-eighth of an ounce of edibles or concentrates.

At least 17 dispensaries have been given the go-ahead to begin retail sales this week, and as many as 40 may receive licenses before Saturday morning, the Nevada Dispensary Association said.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but nine states and the nation’s capital have passed laws legalizing recreational cannabis use, Nevada included. A U.S Department of Justice spokesman declined to comment on Nevada’s marijuana laws and said the government is currently reviewing its policies on marijuana enforcement, Reuters reported.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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