Las Vegas Sun

July 22, 2019

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Proposed legislation seeks to shine light on marijuana licensee demographics

Green Life Productions

Steve Marcus

Marijuana plants are shown during a tour of the Green Life Productions grow facility in Las Vegas Thursday, April 19, 2018.

CARSON CITY — A bill pending in the Nevada Legislature aims to lay bare racial disparities in the legal marijuana industry by providing the governor and lawmakers a yearly analysis of demographic data on business owners.

“I don’t think you need anyone really to tell you that license holders are not representative of the Nevada population,” said Sen. Dallas Harris, D-Las Vegas, the bill’s sponsor. “But you do need those numbers to actually kind of show that, in order to be able to get a good lay of the land. We can all guess what it looks like.”

Finding out who owns marijuana businesses in Nevada can be tricky. State law, descended from patient protections when only medical marijuana was legal, leaves most information, including who applies for licenses and who gets them, unavailable to the public.

The publication Marijuana Business Daily conducted a survey of Nevada marijuana business owners in 2017 that showed 81 percent were white. The results were only from those who responded.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s fairly simple at this point,” Harris said. “We’re just trying to diversify the industry, get that data collected that we need to get to see exactly how bad things are and if we can make things a bit more equitable.”

Riana Durrett, executive director of the Nevada Dispensary Association, filed a memorandum on the bill suggesting fixes to reduce racial disparities, including removing certain barriers to licensing, such as a prior marijuana conviction.

The legislation, Senate Bill 346, has been approved by the Senate Growth and Infrastructure Committee and this week was heard by the Senate Finance Committee, which took no action on it.