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Expert Predicts Changes For Nevada's Marijuana Landscape

marijuana_lines.jpg

Associated Press

Recreational marijuana has been legal for adults in Nevada for nine months.

Sales have averaged a million dollars a day. And state officials say $30 million in new tax revenues were collected from legal pot sales in the first six months.

So that’s big. Sales are big. But the state still has some things to figure out.

Richardo Baca is the founder of the Cannabist, a website dedicated to marijuana news. He was the first marijuana reporter for the Denver Post.

Baca said the next big issue for the industry is social consumption, and Nevada will be the state to really spearhead the issue.

Under Nevada law, people are allowed to grow, possess and consume marijuana but they cannot legally consume it in public. That means someone visiting Las Vegas can buy the substance but cannot consume it in hotel rooms, businesses or outside on the streets.

“I really think Nevada is poised to take this by the horns and to show the rest of the world how it’s done,” Baca said.

Baca said Nevada is the "master of regulated businesses" and can really show out of towners how to regulate marijuana and allow social consumption.

“Public consumption, social use, is one of the biggest next frontiers of legalization, and it is something that we have to figure out," he said. "It is really our responsibility to."

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A ballot measure in Denver allowed public consumption, but so far no pot lounges have opened.

Baca said another hot topic in the marijuana industry is the price of marijuana and the impact it is having on the black market.

He said legalization has not eliminated the black market in Colorado, Nevada or California. Instead, it has created the gray market, which sits between the legal market and the black market.

Baca said the gray market makes it difficult for law enforcement to know if a grow operation or dispensary is legal. He said Colorado lawmakers are working on ways to fix that and eliminate the gray market.

Banking is another issue. Right now, many banks do not want to work with marijuana businesses because of the extra paperwork and regulatory oversight. Having few banking options makes the marijuana industry ripe for theft.

Despite the push by senators, representatives and governors in states that legalized marijuana, Baca has not seen any movement on the banking issue.

But Baca does see major changes ahead for Nevada's marijuana industry in the next year.

“I think it will be unrecognizable when we hit 2019,” he said.

Baca said Nevada's history of regulating industries like gambling, liquor, and prostitution will serve it well when it comes to moving marijuana forward.

One of the biggest changes will be in normalizing a substance that he believes has been stigmatized since the 1930s.

“When you can affect an entirety of a community just with sensibility and more education, I think it’s a huge thing and I think that could be noticeable one year from now in Nevada," he said.

Guests

Ricardo Baca, founder, The Cannabist

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