CARSON CITY, NV – Eighteen months into legalized marijuana sales in Nevada, lawmakers are ready to make changes to laws based off what has worked, and what still needs worked on.
Just 37 days into 2019, there are twelve bill requests related to the marijuana industry slated for the 2019 Legislative Session. Of the bills, several deal specifically with the industry’s banking access, which has long been a contentious issue for marijuana dispensaries across Nevada, and America. Other bills aim to delegate where marijuana tax revenues are appropriated.
Voted in by Nevadans in 2016 and official a sellable item in July 2017, lawmakers cannot alter language of voter-approved initiatives for three years in accordance with Nevada law. This makes the upcoming session the first opportunity lawmakers have to make changes without voter approval.
Tackling The Pot Money Issue
Even with Nevada pot dispensaries pulling in $70 million in tax revenues off $425 million in sales, legislators want money diverted to other initiatives. Currently, marijuana is subject to a special 10 percent sales tax, with all revenue generated earmarked for the state’s rainy day fund. Those who carry a medical marijuana card can avoid the excise tax by presenting their card prior to making their purchase.
One bill to hit the floor could appropriate that funding to medical marijuana research and education. An additional component of that bill would allow localities to tack on additional taxes to be used to curb homeless population, improve infrastructure and provide cost-effective housing solutions.
Four additional bills are targeting the banking aspect of marijuana laws.
Federally regulated financial institutions are hesitant to work with cannabis businesses due to their heightened risk of being scrutinized by federal laws. Because all marijuana laws are state sponsored but have no federal backing, funds can be seized at will by the ATF or FBI. Many Nevada dispensaries operate cash-only business models because of this, which creates another security issue when business owners have duffel bags full of cash with nowhere safe to store them.
One workaround to the banking issue is creating a privately insured bank chartered by Nevada which can handle large sums of cannabis business cash. Another idea being kicked around would involve Nevada entering into a banking agreement with California, a bordering state where marijuana laws are similar.
The State Marijuana Bank seems to be the idea of choice, at least according to Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas.
Other Proposed Measures
Transparency is another area where state representatives believe improvements are necessary. One measure up for debate would require the Tax Department to maintain a database of licensed dispensaries on their website for public viewing.
Another measure would allow potential dispensaries to request approval from the Department of Taxation regardless if the city has reached its limit. This would override the previous voter-approved measure to limit the number of dispensaries per county.
Marijuana advertising would be governed if the measure introduced by Assemblyman Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, passes legislation.
Some Marijuana Activities Are Still Illegal
Although marijuana is completely legal for adults to purchase in Nevada, consuming it publicly is still illegal. That issue is easily solved for residents of the state – but not so easy if you are one of 42 million annual visitors to Las Vegas interested in buying and smoking pot.
Black market purchases, traveling to Nevada and transporting marijuana back to your home state, and possession over one ounce of legal pot can land you in hot water.
Those who face legal troubles over marijuana or possession of a controlled substance should immediately phone a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney.