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June 23, 2017

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Nevada plans July pot sales despite warning of U.S. crackdown

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Scott Sonner / AP

In this July 31, 2015, file photo, people line up to be among the first in Nevada to legally purchase medical marijuana at the Silver State Relief dispensary in Sparks, Nev. Nevada still plans to launch recreational marijuana sales in July, 2017, despite warnings this week of a federal crackdown by the administration of President Donald Trump.

Updated Friday, Feb. 24, 2017 | 10:41 a.m.

CARSON CITY — Nevada still plans to launch recreational marijuana sales in July despite warnings this week of a federal crackdown by the administration of President Donald Trump, state officials said Friday.

Marijuana possession and sales are illegal under federal law, but Nevada voters decided in November to allow people age 21 or older to use pot recreationally — becoming one of eight states to do so.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday that the United States Justice Department will step up enforcement of federal laws prohibiting recreational — not medical — marijuana. No immediate action accompanied the statement, which came in response to a reporter's question.

That has not prompted the Nevada agency tasked with crafting rules governing recreational marijuana sales to change its timeline for ensuring dispensaries can open this summer, said agency spokeswoman Stephanie Klapstein.

"As of now, the Department of Taxation is moving forward with our regulation development as planned," she said.

The Democratic leader of Nevada's state Senate, Aaron Ford, criticized the White House for what he called an "overzealous attack on the will of Nevada voters."

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval is currently budgeting tens of millions of dollars in marijuana tax revenue over the next two years to fund public education.

"Any action by the Trump administration would be an insult to Nevada voters and would pick the pockets of Nevada's students," Ford said.

He also claimed increased enforcement of the nation's drug laws would constitute "federal overreach" and asked Nevada's Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt to make a statement similar to that of Washington state's vow to fight any crackdown.

Federal laws pre-empt state laws, but former President Barack Obama gave the states leeway to establish marijuana industries as long as they keep the drug from crossing state lines and away from children and drug cartels. It's unclear exactly what Trump's administration will do.

Laxalt is analyzing the issue, spokeswoman Monica Moazez said.

"Not every action taken by the federal government, much less every statement made by the president or his staff, constitutes federal overreach," she said. "Our office will continue to monitor this situation and analyze it according to the law and the Constitution, not speculate or jump to conclusions."

Nevada voters first voted to legalize medical marijuana in 1998 and gave final approval in 2000. After legal wrangling in the Legislature and local municipalities, the first prescription-only dispensaries opened in 2015.

Trump said during his campaign for the White House that he does not oppose medical marijuana, a sentiment Spicer repeated this week.

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