Wednesday July 8, 2015
Are you confused by the odd marijuana distribution options in Nevada? That's no surprise. The current law entitling marijuana medical card holders to purchase pot legally borders on inscrutable. Bureaucrats continue to drag their feet on the details for regulating the industry. Despite 2013 changes to state law, the only legal supply system for distribution is through delivery, but this begs a question. How is marijuana sourced in Nevada if no dispensaries are open? Read on to learn the truth.
In 2000, state voters authorized the Nevada Medical Marijuana Act, also known as Question 9. The legislation was clearly the people's choice, as 65 percent of voters said yes. Nevada residents enabled the usage of cannabis for people suffering from glaucoma, epilepsy, cancer, and a few other illnesses. Oddly, there was no movement to enact this new law for 13 years. Politicians deftly bypassed picking a side in the weed legalization debate by avoiding precise legal definitions on the matter in the interim.
In 2013, a new measure became the guiding force for legalized marijuana. Republican governor Brian Sandoval signed SB374 into law, thereby codifying exact methodology for pot purchases. People with medical marijuana cards now have the ability to acquire cannabis legally. The problem is that there are still many restrictions that lawmakers must settle.
The expectation is that when Nevada voters head to the ballot boxes in November of 2016, some clarity will arise. At that time, Nevada residents will determine whether their state should legalize marijuana without restrictions. Until then, there is a gray area regarding weed distribution.
The Gray Stuff
The issue facing Nevada residents now is one of potential impropriety. Citizens should have the right to buy marijuana legally according to state law, but they must use a distribution system relying upon dispensaries. Without any of those open in the state, where is the weed coming from?
The answer is complex. The state of Nevada has more experience regulating the sin tax industries than any other member of the union. Their handling of prostitution and gambling should have prepared them for marijuana distribution. That hasn't occurred, though. The Republican-controlled legislature has dragged its heels on all proposals to clarify SB374. That's a huge problem due to how the law is written.
Following the letter of the law, marijuana must pass "the most stringent acceptable standard for an approved pesticide chemical residue in any food item." So, it can possess no more pesticide particles than items like meat and milk, and they have virtually known. The expectation was that pot would have the same requirements as berries and lettuces, crops that need pesticide treatments. The law is fuzzy about whether this is the case, though. This confusion is wreaking havoc for potential distributions.
Supply vs. Demand
With no functional dispensaries, delivery services are in a tricky situation. The demand for marijuana is dramatic, yet the legal supply at this point is virtually non-existent. People with medical marijuana cards have the right to sell unused plants once. They can also donate plants for free if so inclined.
These patients have the ability to grow 12 mature plants. They also must register with the state that they intend to cultivate a crop of pot. So, the amount of product available is theoretically limited to the surplus unused marijuana homegrown by cardholders. Obviously, that's not much for such a burgeoning industry.
There are 60 dispensaries that the legislature has legally authorized. Once they are allowed to produce and distribute their goods, the situation will have more clarity. Until then, marijuana distributors understand that their volume of product relative to available supply sources is suspicious. Many of them refuse the opportunity to discuss their distribution system publicly. That heightens the concern that some of the product being sold is not going through legal channels.
The risks with this business plan are obvious. In order to meet demand, the delivery agents are skirting a murky law by somehow finding more product than should be available via home-grown supply alone. Local law enforcement officials aren't turning a blind eye to this behavior. Police have performed several raids to shut down unlawful pot co-ops.
Since Nevada has authorized significantly fewer dispensaries than the other states that have legalized cannabis, delivery companies are in a precarious position. Without enough supply, they'll lose customers and potential revenue in the early days when they stand to gain a tremendous competitive advantage. If they get raided and shut down, however, they're likely to lose their license and never have the opportunity to distribute marijuana legally in Nevada again. Until lawmakers provide more explicit legislation, they'll remain stuck in this gray area.
The evolving nature of marijuana laws across the states will remain fluid indefinitely. Nevada hopes to have a clearer picture after the 2016 election. Until then, marijuana delivery services will continue to rely upon home-grown product.