Nevada Cannabis Legalization

Nevada voters legalized medical cannabis on the ballot in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2013 that the state Legislature passed a law allowing for dispensaries.

Voters on Nov. 8 passed ballot Question 2, giving adults in Nevada the ability to possess up to an ounce of pot. The new law – known officially as the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act – takes effect in Nevada on January 1, 2017. Under the new law, only business that have medical pot certificates will be allowed to apply for recreational licenses for the first 18 months and the application period for Nevada’s early-start cannabis sales is officially underway.

The Department of Taxation began accepting applications Monday for businesses wanting to grow, produce and sell recreational cannabis. The licenses will allow medical cannabis dispensaries to sell cannabis products to adults 21 and older, with the goal of retail sales beginning July 1. The application deadline ended May 31. In addition, the early recreational licenses will be valid through March 2018.

Recreational cannabis became legal in Nevada on July 1, and some medical cannabis dispensaries that received adult-use licenses began sales after the clock strikes midnight.

Nevada Cannabis Perspectives

Nevada’s rec market could generate $75 million or more in sales this year. Nevada’s recreational cannabis could record sales of $450 million-$550 million, with tourist spending accounting for the bulk of it.

The early recreational cannabis program ran in July 1 and will last until January 2018 and will be open to roughly 190 dispensaries, growers and processors (about 40% are retailers).

Regular recreational licensing rules are expected to be complete by year end, and the “early start” permits are due to expire on April 1, 2018.

The state’s medical cannabis program continues its rapid growth. As of December 2016, about 23,375 patients were registered in the program – a figure that has well more than doubled since mid-2015.

One of the positive features of Nevada’s medical cannabis law is that the state recognizes the patient status of non-residents who are qualified under their state government’s laws. Current rules require out-of-state visiting patients to visit a Nevada dispensary to sign an affidavit and receive instructions from dispensary staff in order to be protected. At that point, state law will protect qualified visitors who make purchases at state-licensed stores.

Opportunities for new entrants to Nevada’s market – or for existing businesses to expand and diversify their operations – are in the distributor field. For such licenses, applications will be accepted from current medical cannabis licensees, those holding wholesale liquor licenses, as well as companies currently transporting medical cannabis whose employees hold valid agent cards.


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