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Nevada Recreational Marijuana Sales May Be Delayed By Courts

Alcohol distributors argue that they should have the first chance at sales.

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The planned July 1st rollout of early recreational marijuana sales in Nevada may now be delayed due to a complaint filed by alcohol distributors in the state. This week, a district court judge signed a temporary restraining order prohibiting the state Department of Taxation from enforcing the May 31st deadline for marijuana retail license applications. 

The court order was issued following a complaint by the Independent Alcohol Distributors of Nevada, who argued that the ballot measure that legalized cannabis last fall gave liquor wholesalers exclusive rights to marijuana sales licenses for the first 18 months of sales. “The statute clearly gives a priority and exclusive license to alcohol distributors, in order to promote the goal of regulating marijuana similar to alcohol,” the judge said in his ruling.

Sam McMullen, the attorney representing the alcohol industry, said that although the court order will likely delay the rollout of rec sales, it is not the intention of the complaint. “We just want our rightful place,” he said. “We don’t want to slow this down inordinately.”

However, officials from the state tax department have said that alcohol distributors showed little interest in distributing marijuana after the legalization measure passed. One of the reasons for this reticence is that all liquor distributors are federally licensed, and dealing in a federally illegal drug could put those licenses at risk. According to Tax Department spokesperson Stephanie Klapstein, only one licensed alcohol wholesaler has applied for a marijuana license to date.

The impact that the restraining order will have on the start date of recreational sales will not be certain until the Tax Department holds a hearing on the restraining order. “The Department is reviewing the temporary restraining order with legal counsel, and we intend to defend our regulations to the fullest extent of the law,” Klapstein said.

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