Gov. Sandoval signs marijuana legislation; adult-use sales get early start


Last update: June 14, 2017


On November 8, 2016, 55% of Nevada voters approved Question 2, which legalizes, taxes, and regulates marijuana for adults 21 and older. The Marijuana Policy Project played a leading role in the campaign, which faced well-financed opposition, including $3.5 million from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Many thanks to everyone who volunteered, donated, talked to friends and family, and voted! We couldn’t have done it without you.

Newly signed legislation

Nevada is moving toward well-regulated and accessible medical and recreational marijuana programs. Gov. Sandoval signed three marijuana-related bills into law this week!

Of the bills, the first, SB344, requires marijuana edibles be in unattractive, childproof packaging; the second, AB422, lowers medical marijuana patient fees; and the third, SB487, imposes a 10% tax on recreational marijuana sales – adding the revenue to the state’s rainy day fund and regulating limited access to the fund until 2019.

Unfortunately, the governor vetoed AB259, a bill that would have expunged criminal records of those convicted of possessing one ounce or less of marijuana or violating any provision of law involving marijuana that is now legal.

The approved bills will join four bills signed into law this session, providing a framework for Nevada’s new recreational marijuana industry, while preserving the state’s medical marijuana program.

Early start program

In early May, the Nevada Tax Commission adopted temporary regulations proposed by the Department of Taxation allowing the state to issue recreational marijuana licenses by July 1, 2017. The ballot measure requires the state to initiate sales by January 1, 2018, but this “early start” program will allow businesses to open six months earlier.

The incentive for the early start program stems from Gov. Sandoval’s proposed budget request, which includes $70 million from recreational marijuana taxes over the next two years to support education.

During the early start program, only medical marijuana establishments that are already in operation can apply to function as recreational retailers. The establishments must be in good standing and must pay a one-time, nonrefundable application fee as well as a specific licensing fee as outlined in Question 2. The establishment must also provide written confirmation of compliance with their municipality’s zoning and location requirements.

Unfortunately, a legal issue could delay this early start program. On June 13, a Carson City District Court Judge denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Nevada’s liquor distributors, who claim the State Taxation Department’s regulations for licensing distributors of marijuana are arbitrary and have blocked the state’s liquor distributors from being licensed to sell marijuana.

Medical marijuana program continues to grow


The state’s medical marijuana program continues its rapid growth. As of October 2016, about 23,375 patients were registered in the program — a figure that has well more than doubled since mid-2015. State officials attribute the growth to the availability of regulated dispensaries, many of which started operations in 2015 and earlier this year.

How do medical marijuana patients visiting Nevada get access while in the state?


One of the positive features of Nevada’s medical marijuana 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.

For updates on the status of the department’s roll out including news and valuable links, visit the Department of Health and Human Services Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health’s website. Agency rules adopted in April can be found here.

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