Las Vegas Sun

May 26, 2019

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Guest column:

Competitive licensing for marijuana businesses helps the entire industry

It’s just been over two years since Nevada legalized recreational marijuana. This market is new to us and, to be sure, there are some kinks to be worked out. But that doesn’t mean we should halt all business in pursuit of perfection.

Unfortunately, that’s what a group of unsuccessful applicants for cannabis licenses is trying to do in filing a lawsuit over the state’s licensing process. Intent on uprooting the foundational work that has already been done in establishing a regulatory system, these litigants expect a judge to stall business operations and the taxpayers to foot the bill to start the licensing process over again.

That’s the wrong approach. Instead, we should work on it together.

Nevada is a national leader on oversight systems. We learned how to responsibly manage gaming, and our oversight of that industry is now the model across the country. Similarly, we are a model for marijuana regulations. Nevada has possibly the best marijuana oversight system in the country.

Meeting the highest standards for retailer business plans, safety protocols and community benefits is no small undertaking. Only a limited number of licenses are available for marijuana businesses. The numbers are staggering. In the last round of issuances, 462 applications from 127 applicants were filed competing for only 61 available licenses.

The competition is intense.

Unlike states like Oregon or Colorado, Nevada will not have a flood of pot retailers who lower standards in a race to the bottom. Tight numbers of licenses and rigorous reviews mean the industry as a whole will remain stable, delivering predictable tax results for Nevada.

When Nevadans voted to legalize marijuana, they did so with the expectation that the industry would be managed to safeguard the public and deliver needed tax revenue to our schools. When The Source applied for a license, we had to clearly show that we were committed to the safety and well-being of our customers, our community and the state.

The regulated, legal cannabis market in Nevada has exceeded expectations. It’s projected that by 2025, the market will bring over a billion dollars in taxes for the state. It supports our robust tourism industry, attracting more visitors and dollars to Nevada. Public education on safe consumption and youth education on substance avoidance means that in the past two years, we have seen a decrease in the number of youths consuming a controlled substance.

We are proud to be a part of that system. We are also proud to work on public education that empowers people to make healthier decisions. We want Nevada to continue to act as a model as the industry grows nationwide.

But we can’t do that if those who were unsuccessful in the last round of issuances are allowed to disrupt our progress.

In licensing retailers who are prepared to get to work, Nevada benefits more quickly from the revenue generated by those businesses. Those fighting the new licenses are holding up business and the promised revenue to our students. Nevada’s budget relies on these tax dollars. Every day we stall, the state earns less. And every day we put a strain on the courts, more tax dollars are being spent. This is not what voters wanted.

The irony here is that the leader of this challenge was the only cannabis business operator to endorse these rules in the first place. After voters legalized recreational marijuana, a task force was created to establish expectations for would-be retailers. Only one cannabis business owner was on the task force. Only one of us had inside access to decision makers and the rules. His business was not awarded a license in the last round. Was he expecting special treatment?

Instead of tearing down our operations, let’s work together to build a sustainable, healthy market. Let’s produce more revenue for Nevada schools. Let’s keep our products safe for consumers and out of reach for children. Let’s continue to deliver the gold standard in marijuana oversight while allowing businesses to operate in the marketplace we all agreed to.

Andrew Jolley is the founder of The Source dispensary. A leading advocate for the cannabis industry, he has played a key role in implementation of medical and retail marijuana policies in Nevada and continues to work closely with state officials on the issue.