Nevada is apparently trying to set the record for fastest turnaround of recreational marijuana after being given permission to proceed with its early start recreational marijuana program. Voters approved the state's Question 2 back in November, and Nevada's goal has been to get recreational marijuana on its shelves in only eight months. That is faster than any other state to date.
Question 2 made it legal for anyone over the age of 21 to possess up to one ounce of weed and up to an eighth-ounce of concentrate. The actual sale and purchase of recreational marijuana, however, will not be legal in the state of Nevada until July 1. Under the state's early start program, existent medical marijuana dispensaries that are currently in "good standing" will be permitted to sell recreational marijuana once the law goes into effect.
While California, Massachusetts, and Maine also all voted to legalize recreational marijuana back in November, Nevada will be the first of the group to actually begin selling the product. California and Maine are both expected to begin selling about six months after Nevada does, with their sales beginning in January of 2018. Massachusetts will bring up the rear, with sales beginning in mid-2018. However, in Massachusetts adults will be permitted to possess more than twice that which is allowed in Nevada.
One of the major motivations for Nevada's early start program came from Governor Brian Sandoval's proposed budget, which included a whopping $70 million in recreational marijuana taxes over the next two years. These proceeds are set to go toward funding education. Further, Nevada officials are anxious about squashing the marijuana black market, which is thriving more than ever thanks to the possession of recreational pot being made legal last January.
Karen O'Keefe, Denver's director of state policies for its Marijuana Policy Project, defended Nevada's early start program, saying that the state's system is more advanced than the systems of other states. Particularly, according to O'Keefe, Nevada's "rigorous testing and security," which she says are two of the biggest hurdles to overcome for any state's program.
Opponents of the marijuana legalization process believe that Nevada is jumped the gun and looking to cut corners in order to get its program up and running. Jim Hartman, a retired lawyer from Carson City, often shows up in person at the Nevada Legislature to voice his opposition with the state's speedy legalization process. Hartman believes that Nevada's motivation is nothing more than "a backroom agreement to get tax receipts," and feels that the state is trying to "truncate the process."
Nevada's Department of Taxation, which oversees the recreational marijuana industry, is working with the Department of Health and Human Services on finalizing the program, seeing as how the latter has been overseeing the state's medical marijuana program as well. Since 2015, when the state's medical marijuana business went into full swing, the program has seen 60 medical marijuana dispensaries pop up, as well as nearly 90 cultivation facilities, about 60 production companies, and 11 testing laboratories. As of May, nearly 28,000 citizens were registered as in-state cardholders, though Nevada also serves out-of-state cardholders as well, and is permitted to do so via in-state reciprocity laws.