Sun File (2017)
Monday, July 24, 2023 | 2 a.m.
Cannabis consumers will be able to purchase larger volumes and more potent THC products in Nevada thanks to a bill signed into law last month that is anticipated to make sweeping changes to the industry.
Senate Bill 277 allows recreational cannabis customers to purchase up to 2½ ounces of marijuana flower or one-quarter ounce of THC concentrate, up from one ounce and one-eighth ounces, respectively. Under the new law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024, retailers that offer both recreational and medicinal products willbe required to hold only one license rather than specific certifications for either.
“That’s one of the big changes, (but) I think there are a bunch of things in the bill that are really designed to be business-friendly and moving our cannabis industry into the next phase,” said state Sen. Dallas Harris, D-Las Vegas, who introduced the bill.
And because only one type of license will be needed to operate a dispensary, some medical-grade marijuana products — which are typically stronger — will be sold along with recreational products, said Bri Padilla, executive director of the Las Vegas Chamber of Cannabis.
“Medical patients are actually able to access more potent and higher levels of products so they’re not seeing any change there,” said Padilla, who worked alongside Harris and industry stakeholders to craft the bill. “What we’ll see is the consumer achieve parity with what medical folks can purchase.
“They’ll be able to elevate all of their products to the standard that we’re seeing for medical, and then we’ll also be able to provide that for them,” Padilla continued.
Having a distinction between recreational and medicinal licenses was essential when the industry was just getting rolling, Harris said. But given the success of recreational cannabis (which has been legal in Nevada since 2017) and the similarity between the recreational and medicinal products, it was only natural for lawmakers and stakeholders to want to eliminate some of the red tape within the industry in the state.
“It’s going to cut down on some of that administrative burden for a lot of our operators, which are generally dual licensees to begin with,” Harris said. “It made sense when we originally set up our structure so that we had separate licenses because we had medical first, then we had adult use. But now given the industry is up on its feet, I think it just makes sense to streamline that process.”
The new law also lifts the excise tax levied on medicinal cannabis sales and affords retailers to have more than one entrance. Local governments are also able to use tax revenue generated by cannabis sales to fund public education campaigns about safe consumption practices and teaching how to spot the difference between a licit and illegitimate retail operation.
Under current law, those convicted of felonies aren’t allowed to work in cannabis. But the new law also contains a provision setting up an appeals process for an ex-convict to apply to the Nevada Cannabis Control Board (CCB) for an agent card, which allows individuals to work with cannabis in the state.
“So right now, the CCB is able to receive petitions from folks with felonies and they are given essentially a court-like process that they have to go through,” Padilla said. “And they are also going to be given a hearing. They’re given a decision by the CCB after a background check and a criminal record pull, then the CCB will advise on whether they’re rehabilitated or not and provide or deny them an agent card for X, Y or Z reason.”
The law also reduces many of the annual and overhead startup fees levied by the Cannabis Control Board, by as much as 90% in some instances. For example, the fee for the initial issuance of a cannabis establishment license for a cultivation facility has been reduced from $30,000 to $3,000, and the renewal of such a license decreased to $1,000 from $10,000.
Those measures could prove to be pivotal at a time when competition in the industry remains high, said Andrew Hitchcock, co-owner of the Las Vegas-based cannabis cultivator Nature’s Chemistry.
“We’re getting to the point where we’re starting to administer some common sense,” Hitchcock said. “We’re not in an easy business. You can’t control 100% of 100%.”
Over the last few years, more and more companies have emerged in the industry, driving supply up while demand has remained relatively level, Hitchcock said. That means prices have dropped and there’s less room for profits.
“What’s hurting demand, quite frankly, is that we’re overtaxing the public,” Hitchcock said.
Harris said SB 277 would work alongside other similar legislation that was passed this session to ease restrictive burdens for business owners. Introduced by Sen. Rochelle Nguyen, D-Las Vegas, Senate Bill 195 allows the CCB to resolve matters concerning a licensee who committed a violation to enter a settlement rather than the current policy which lets the agency “stack fines,” Padilla said.
“It felt punitive and there wasn’t much transparency,” Padilla said. “So, between that and limiting what they can find out and how they can advise of inspections and audits, much of that was addressed in Senate Bill 195.”
Gov. Joe Lombardo also signed Senate Bill 328 into law, which makes a slew of changes to the CCB’s structure, including subjecting the body to open record laws.
“We’re going to see a more structured process, and we’re also going to see a more transparent process,” Padilla said.
But not every cannabis-related bill introduced during the sessionbecame law.
Assembly Bills 411 and 253 each advanced out of the Nevada Assembly but died in committee in the Nevada Senate. Those bills included proposals to allow terminally ill patients to consume cannabis within medical facilities and to regulate the sale of cannabis products at live events.
Another bill, Senate Bill 402, sought to create a pilot program that would have provided people convicted of a simple marijuana possession charge and other nonviolent offenders to receive training, experience and mentorship for careers in the cannabis industry.
And while those didn’t clear the hurdles necessary to become law this time around, lawmakers might try again in future sessions to revisit them, Harris said.
“One of the things I think we still need to address and really put some effort into is the social equity piece,” Harris said. “And we got that started a little bit, we saw that with the consumption lounges and legislation that was passed in 2021.
“We’ve got some guidelines, but it’s time now, I think, we start to put some real effort in our thoughts and in our dollars building up the social equity pieces of the industry as well.”