Expert: Recreational marijuana sales in Nevada four times medical sales in first year

John Restrepo, principal at RCG Ventures, presents an economic analysis of the first year of recreational marijuana in Nevada. The presentation, made on Oct. 26, 2018 at Bali Hai Golf Club, was conducted for the Nevada Dispensary Association

Nevada’s legal marijuana industry brought in nearly $529 million in taxable sales in fiscal year 2018, the Nevada Dispensary Association said today.

A 10 percent excise tax on recreational marijuana raised $42.49 million, meaning $424.9 million of the state’s pot sales were on recreational marijuana. The other $105 million in sales came from medicinal marijuana, purchased by the state’s nearly 16,000 medical cardholders.

“We’ve had a great start, and the results are encouraging,” said Riana Durrett, executive director of the Nevada Dispensary Association, during a presentation at Bali Hai Golf Club. Club.

With an association-estimated $989.7 million in contributions to the economy — including auxiliary businesses that supply, outfit and construct buildings for marijuana companies — Nevada’s pot industry also produced 8,300 full-time equivalent jobs. Of that sum, the industry generated $443.3 million in direct, indirect and induced labor income.The association presented its findings to a room of several dozen industry members. While touting the first year’s numbers, the organization said the industry’s flaws — which include high taxes, a declining medical clientele and expanding illicit market — must be addressed.

State officials announced in August that Nevada raised $69.8 million in tax revenue between a 10 percent excise on recreational cannabis sales and a 15 percent duty on wholesale shipments of marijuana from cultivators and producers to dispensaries.

But high tax rates of as much as 38 percent in some parts of the state where local taxes are relatively high have made pot Nevada’s highest-taxed industry, dispensary association members said.

John Ritter, who sits on the advisory boards of the association and The Grove Dispensary, was one of only two industry members appointed to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Recreational Marijuana Task Force last year. Ritter called the black market, which undercuts the prices of legal dispensaries, dispensary owners’ “biggest competitor.”

“It’s expensive to build the facilities and keep up with the regulatory controls,” Ritter said. “There are a lot of taxes on us.”

Nevada State Sen. Tick Segerblom said expansion of the legal industry must include better incentives for medical buyers to purchase the plant as registered state cardholders.

Since legal sales of recreational marijuana launched on July 1 of last year, the number of medical cardholders in Nevada has dropped more than 40 percent from its peak of 28,000 in June 2017.

Segerblom, who is running for a position on the Clark County Commission, asked state officials in attendance to address the issue at the Nevada Legislature next spring. He said Nevada should follow legislative efforts in New York, which allows medical marijuana to be included in a patient’s health care insurance plan.

“We started this program from scratch,” Segerblom said. “And we wouldn’t have the success we’ve had without our medical patients.”