November 20, 2017

November 20, 2017

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Recreational Pot Comes to Nevada…But Why Are The Shelves Empty?

On July 1, 2017, Nevada became the fifth state in the United States to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana. The epicenter of “what happens here, stays here” tourism just added a new vice to its repertoire! So, what’s the problem?

Among other things, Nevada’s recreational marijuana dispensaries are facing the specter of empty shelves. Why? Because a wrinkle in the ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana sales in Nevada gives licensed liquor wholesalers a temporary 18-month monopoly on marijuana distribution rights… “unless the [Nevada] Department [of Taxation] determines that an insufficient number of marijuana distributors will result from this limitation.” In order to fill its shelves, a Nevada-licensed recreational marijuana dispensary must use a licensed recreational marijuana distributor to transport the product from the cultivation facility to their stores (whereas dispensaries selling medical marijuana were allowed to move “medical-use” product from cultivation locations without an independent distribution network).

Despite efforts by marijuana dispensaries to stock up prior to July 1, overwhelming demand for recreational marijuana has resulted in dwindling supplies. And now, distributors are nowhere to be found. That is because very few liquor wholesalers have applied to become licensed marijuana distributors, and those that have made such application have failed to meet the requirements for licensure. The Nevada Department of Taxation (NDOT) reported that as of July 7, 2017, ZERO distribution licenses have been issued by NDOT.

Perhaps liquor wholesalers fear risking their federal alcohol permits issued by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau? It would appear that marijuana distribution licenses would have to be issued to persons other than liquor wholesalers – however, nothing is that simple. A small group of liquor wholesalers, known as the Independent Alcohol Distributors of Nevada, sued and, on June 21, won a temporary injunction against NDOT to prevent marijuana distribution licenses from being issued to persons other than liquor wholesalers.

In response, on July 7, Governor Sandoval endorsed emergency regulations that would give NDOT the authority to determine whether there are a sufficient number of marijuana distributors to service the market – a determination that would allow NDOT to open up distributor licensing to those other than licensed liquor wholesalers. The emergency regulations will be considered by NDOT on July 13. Stay tuned.

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Kate C. Lowenhar-Fisher, Dickinson Wright, Las Vegas, Gaming Lawyer
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Ms. Lowenhar-Fisher is a leading Nevada gaming attorney who counsels many of the world’s premier gaming companies on regulatory issues in connection with mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring, reorganizations and financings.  She has extensive experience advising clients on issues related to Internet gaming, social gaming, fantasy sports, liquor licensing, sweepstakes, contests, and promotions. She regularly represents individuals and businesses before regulatory agencies, including the Nevada State Gaming Control Board, the Nevada Gaming Commission, the...

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Jennifer J. Gaynor, Dickinson Wright, Carson City, Gaming Attorney
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Jennifer Gaynor represents clients before the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, Nevada. She also practices before various professional and licensing boards and state and local tax authorities, and represents clients on matters involving First Amendment law, public records and open meeting law, gaming law and regulatory agency actions.

Professional Involvement

  • Nevada State Chair, CARE

  • Board Member, Nevada Preservation Foundation

  • Member, CLE Committee, State Bar of Nevada

  • Member, Howard D. McKibben Inn of Court 

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Jeffrey A. Silver, Dickinson Wright, Gaming regulatory Attorney, Nevada
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Mr. Silver's practice focuses on every aspect of gaming, liquor licensing and regulatory law, as well as planning and zoning matters, contractor licensing and transportation law.

Mr. Silver’s representative clients include Gaming Laboratories International, Dubai World, Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, Tuscany Hotel & Casino, Riverside Resort (Laughlin, NV), The Stephen Siegel Group, Grand Sierra Hotel & Casino (Reno, NV), Century Gaming Technologies, Applebee’s Restaurants, Bell Transportation, United Coin, Ryan's Express, and Casino...

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Gregory R. Gemignani, Dickinson Wright, Intellectual Property Lawyer
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Greg Gemignani's practice focuses primarily on intellectual property law, gaming law, technology law, internet law, online gaming law, and online promotions law. He has represented many clients ranging from the largest casino companies to start-up internet ventures.

Professional Involvement

  • Member, International Masters of Gaming Law

  • Member, International Association of Gaming Advisors

  • Member, Technology Business Alliance of Nevada

    ...
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