1st year of Nevada marijuana sales smokes expectations

Christine Glenn sorts marijuana at the Blum marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas, Aug. 1, 2018 | Associated Press photo by John Locher, St. George News

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Nevada regulators and industry insiders say the state’s first year of broad marijuana legalization has exceeded even their highest expectations, with sales and tax collections already surpassing year-end projections by 25 percent.

Screens display different strains of marijuana at 420 Sahara Wellness in Las Vegas, Nev., July 30, 2018 | Associated Press photo by John Locher, St. George News

Numbers from June are still outstanding but are expected to push taxable sales past $500 million, netting total tax revenue in the neighborhood of $70 million — with about $25 million devoted to schools.

“I think it has been a huge success, and I don’t see how anyone could argue with that,” said Andrew Jolley, president of the Nevada Dispensary Association.

A legal battle over distribution licenses made for a rocky start last July, but Nevada’s $195 million in sales for the first six months dwarfed the totals in Washington state ($67 million) and Colorado ($114 million) for the first half-year of legal sales in those states in 2014. And so far, there’s no sign legal sales that began in California on Jan. 1 have cut into business in neighboring Nevada, regulators say.

We are viewed by many others outside Nevada as essentially being the gold standard,” Nevada Taxation Department Director William Anderson told The Associated Press. “It’s an often-used term, but it’s appropriate here.”

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, a Las Vegas Democrat who helped lead the legalization effort, added the “biggest surprise has been that there’ve been no surprises.”

But not all the reviews are glowing.

Some medical marijuana patients insist they were better off before Nevada legalized recreational pot. Tourists still have nowhere to legally smoke the drug, at least for now, and opponents remain skeptical of the impact on children.

Paul Whiterock smells marijuana for sale at 420 Sahara Wellness in Las Vegas, Nev., July 30, 2018 | Associated Press photo by John Locher, St. George News

Nevada’s Public Safety Department plans to release early data on the trends in the next few weeks.

Anecdotally, Douglas County School Superintendent Teri White said her district near Carson City had more problems with marijuana the first three months of the school year than she’d experienced her entire career. Churchill County High School Principal Kevin Lords in rural Fallon estimated student marijuana use has tripled in his district, including cases of edibles being distributed by adults.

Jim Hartman, a leader of the effort to defeat the 2016 ballot measure legalizing recreational sales, said it’s too early to draw conclusions. “But it only makes sense to me if you legitimize it and make it more accessible, you are going to get more youth use.”

What irks him most are those giddy about the revenue numbers he says are being blown out of proportion in terms of benefiting schools.

“They are celebrating the sale of marijuana products. It isn’t as though SAT scores are increasing,” said Hartman, chairman of Nevadans for Responsible Drug Policy.

The 10 percent retail tax levied only on recreational sales goes to the state’s rainy day fund, a total of $26.5 million through May. Money raised from the 15 percent wholesale tax applicable to medical use as well — about $24 million through May — goes to schools, but not until about one-third is used to cover local and state administrative costs.

That means about $25 million in wholesale revenue anticipated for the first full year of sales will be shared by schools in Nevada’s 17 counties based on enrollment, with $17 million likely headed to Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County and $8 million divided among the rest — perhaps $5 million for Washoe County, including Reno and Sparks.

Hartman said Washoe County’s annual school budget is approaching $1 billion, and building a high school costs an estimated $200 million.

“People have a huge misconception that we are going to build libraries and roads and all kinds of things with this marijuana money,” Hartman said. “But in reality, these are tiny, tiny numbers.”

Marijuana is on display at 420 Sahara Wellness in Las Vegas, Nev., July 30, 2018 | Associated Press photo by John Locher, St. George News

Segerblom and others think the figures will grow, especially when local governments start using their authority to license smoking lounges or other public places for marijuana consumption. Currently, the only legal places are private residences in the state that attracts nearly 50 million tourists annually.

The Las Vegas City Council initially backed off such a move, waiting for places like Colorado to test the waters. But it recently resumed accepting public comment on the matter, and Segerblom thinks the city will move that direction following November’s elections.

The biggest criticism has come from the medical marijuana community. Broad legalization has resulted in dispensaries stocking fewer higher-potency products that cannot be sold for recreational use, critics say.

“I know people complain about the medical, that there has been less availability,” Segerblom said. “That is one of those things that is going to have to work its way through the system. With the recreational sales, there should be more money available for all kinds of products.”

Mona Lisa Samuelson, a leading advocate of medicinal marijuana, said legalization of recreational use “may be the very worst thing to happen to our medical marijuana patients.”

“Unfortunately, more money isn’t making the marijuana industry any kinder or more thoughtful,” she said. “Since recreational sales now far outweigh medical marijuana’s profitability, the patients’ concerns carry no political weight.”

Anderson said Nevada has seen the same trend as other states with dual programs of medical and adult use. He expects to propose some potential remedies before the next legislative session.

Jolley, of the dispensary group, advocates making medical marijuana more accessible to patients by eliminating the state sales tax on it in the same way pharmaceutical prescriptions are exempt and possibly lowering wholesale taxes on medical sales.

Segerblom is reluctant to mess with the tax structure but says one approach might be to provide tax credits for medical pot purchases to offset insurance deductibles.

Jim Lamb, vice president of the Las Vegas Medical Marijuana Association, said he thinks the state should provide free medical marijuana cards to anyone age 55 or older. The cards normally cost about $115 and require a signed physician’s form.

Anderson insists it’s important to continue to serve the medical community one way or another.

“We don’t want that access to go away,” he said.

Written by SCOTT SONNER, The Associated Press.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • utahdiablo August 5, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    Happy days are here again…..just keep smoking and getting high people, that’s what the “Man” wants you to do…to control you and your mind

    • snowflake1 August 6, 2018 at 12:11 am

      What? Who’s under mind control here. Your the one who logs on to make comments about marijuana every single time you can. Looks like your the brain washed one to me.

    • sheepobserver August 6, 2018 at 12:23 pm

      Isn’t the “man” the government trying to prevent me from doing drugs?
      It seems like the “people” want it legalized more than the “man”. The “man” doesn’t stand to gain anything from them.
      The “man” who profits from pharmaceuticals seems to be the one not wanting you to be able to grow a plant in your own garden.
      The “man” I know wants me to work my butt off for the least amount of pay, and the least amount of “thought”. The less I question the “man” the better off he is.

      Trust me, marijuana makes me think, it also kills motivation, no doubt about it. In a society that’s ADDICTED to $$$$ (explain to me how money is not an addiction??????), it doesn’t work too good, I’ll agree with that. Money is the root of all evil, most people’d agree……….and almost everyone is addicted to it, lol. Think about the euphoria you’d have if someone handed you a check for a billion dollars!!!!!!!!!!!!! Better than any shot of heroine……..and……..it still wouldn’t be enough! You’d need to keep satiating that “feeling”. Yeah, money is the most brilliant man made drug ever invented. Nobody ever has enough, if that’s not an addiction, what is?

      If you start researching “real” psychedelic drugs, like mushrooms, and morning glory seeds (totally legal by the way), you’d understand the potential all of these natural plants have.
      What makes more sense as far as the capitalist “man” is concerned? To be able to profit off an addictive “man made” substance (that mimics nature’s totally naturally made substance but has incredibly negative side effects), or to not be able to make any money off a weed that is easily grown, or a fungus that isn’t that hard to grow that has incredibly low side effects? Check out Paul Stamets videos on youtube. Saving the bees with fungus, curing cancer with fungus (most medical drugs for cancer are 70% based on fungus), 80% success rates with treating addiction/depression/ptsd with fungus, and on and on. It’s been used by tribal people for thousands of years…….until the “man” figured out how “bad” it was in terms of his being able to make a dollar off of it.
      The man wants you to be afraid, he’s constantly trying to scare you from anything he can’t make money off of.

      Educate yourself, don’t let the “man” do your thinking for you……..he has a bad reputation of trying to profit off your ignorance.

  • PlanetU August 5, 2018 at 10:20 pm

    With all the greed here it’s a bit surprising this state doesn’t jump on the bandwagon to legalize. Maybe like casinos, they’re bad for you too. There are certainly some negatives /drawbacks to both.

    • ladybugavenger August 6, 2018 at 8:34 am

      Theres a drawback to eating food too. Why is chocolate so good. Food makes me fat lol ughhh

      My point is anything in excess is bad. Someone might be able to drink 6 beers. But I can only drink 2. 3 is too much for me. I dont like to be out of control.

      Problem is people dont know their limits, like me, with chocolate. ?

  • uprightandmovingforward August 6, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    Looks like all the money going towards education will be used to deal with the tripling of marijuana use by students. I hope someone is tracking ACT and SAT scores to see what the affect is on education in NV.

    • sheepobserver August 6, 2018 at 6:22 pm

      Intelligent people throughout history have done drugs, it’s a fact. People who think a lot need an escape, and that escape leads them to be able to concentrate/focus on brilliant ideas.

      Steve Jobs said that one of the five most important experiences of his life was doing acid. Bill Gates also did acid.
      Thomas Edison did cocaine,
      Carl Sagan, pot
      Sigmund Freud, pot
      Edgar Allan Poe, opium
      and on and on……

      and how many other geniuses lied about their usage?

      Google it, you’ll find that it’s the “controlled” folks that don’t want to expand their minds and do what their mama’s told them to. Content to their 9-5, and being average. Nothing wrong with that, but to be exceptional…….a little extra help seems to help a lot of people succeed more than they could have without.

      Highly intelligent people are much more likely to have done drugs. It’s a fact.

      I’m not suggesting anyone should do them, only that research dictates that people with high IQ’s are much more likely to indulge.
      I’d also agree that people with low IQ’s to begin with should stay the heck away from them. It’s more than they can handle.

      Come to your own conclusion. Most people “taught” about the dangers will continue to believe the dangers. Most people brave enough to “try” the dangers will realize how unfounded they are as far as being dangerous.

      • comments August 6, 2018 at 10:41 pm

        I’d say if a person can keep away from mind altering chemicals (including natural ones) they’ll be better off in the long run. I support the cannabis for those with chronic pain. But the youth of today is just becoming more brain dead with their constant “vaping” and dope smoking. I wish they’d give up the vaping and just go back to cigarettes. Or maybe just stick with “bath salts” and tide pods. I don’t know what it is about vaping and e-cigs, but they make me want to slap people upside the head HARD. Idiots.

        • ladybugavenger August 7, 2018 at 9:44 am

          I just bought a vapor thing yesterday. I dont want to buy cigarettes anymore, but I’m addicted to blowing smoke. So I bought it with minimum nicotine to wean myself off of the habit…i give myself 30 days to break the habit…..slap me Bob! And I’ll slap you back! Lol oh! And I dont inhale. I’m not sure how people can inhale the vape. Some vape smoke went down my throat and I choked!

          • comments August 7, 2018 at 11:21 am

            well, the problem with the youth is they aren’t doing it to quit cigs. They are doing it because all their friends do it and it’s “real cool”. Just like a bunch of sheep.

          • ladybugavenger August 7, 2018 at 3:36 pm

            Oh ya, I see. Kids are stupid anyways! I sure hope they make better choices

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