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End In Sight For Nevada's 'Weed Emergency'?

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Associated Press

People lined up outside dispensaries in Nevada in July when recreational sales started.

For some time now, Nevada has been facing a recreational weed “emergency.”

The problem isn’t a lack of marijuana – there’s plenty of that. It’s a question of distribution, and who has the right to move products from grow houses to dispensaries.

A judge answered that question in a hearing Thursday, at least for now. Carson City District Judge James Russell lifted a temporary restraining order that had made the Department of Taxation stick to provisions outlined in the ballot measure legalizing marijuana. 

Michelle Rindels with the Nevada Independent has been following Nevada's legalization of recreational marijuana. She explained that the provision stated only liquor distributors could distribute the drug for the first 18 months of legalization; however, there was a 'trap door' in the law that allowed the Department of Taxation to open it up to other distributors if not enough liquor distributors were available or interested.

“It was part of a political compromise and I think people may regret putting that political compromise in the language because it is very hard to change right now,” Rindels said.

The language was a way to bring liquor distributors on board with the legalization process, Rindels said. 

But some of the biggest distributors have not expressed interest in distributing marijuana, which has left only a few who have applied and received a license. In the hearing, Judge Russell said there was overwhelming evidence that alcohol wholesalers didn't have the capabilities to distribute to the dozens of recreational marijuana dispensaries around the state. 

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“Now that hold is lifted, presumably things can go forward and the department can license these marijuana distributors to get their own vans and put those on the road,” Rindels said.

One of the big problems with the provision and the hold is that some of the marijuana dispensaries are vertically integrated, meaning the product is grown and sold on the same site or very nearby - but they weren't allowed to move the product from the growing facility to the store front without a third party's involvement. The ruling has changed that.

Despite the judge's decision, the dispute over distribution isn't entirely over.

“They can appeal this to the Nevada Tax Commission so there is probably more to come in this battle,” Rindels said.

 

Guests

Michelle Rindels, reporter, the Nevada Independent

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