Nevada recreational marijuana sales to launch Saturday

Licensed Nevada medical marijuana dispensaries can start selling recreational cannabis as planned on Saturday despite an ongoing legal battle, state officials said.

Nevada intends to appeal a district judge’s order that only alcohol wholesalers can obtain cannabis distribution licenses, but that won’t affect the state’s plan to start retail sales, a Department of Taxation (DOT) spokeswoman said Monday.

The judge ruled in favor of the Independent Alcohol Distributors of Nevada, who filed suit to halt the issuance of distribution licenses. They argued that only licensed liquor wholesalers qualify for the marijuana distributor licenses.

Regulators, however, say they have the authority to issue distributor licenses to existing medical dispensaries if there aren’t enough applicants from the alcohol industry to meet demand.

Meanwhile, the Nevada Tax Commission approved emergency regulations requiring marijuana businesses to meet stricter labeling and packaging requirements. The rules prohibit, among other things, edibles modeled after products marketed primarily to children or bearing likenesses of animals, fruit or cartoon characters.

Nevada’s early adult-use program – in which only licensed MMJ dispensaries can sell rec cannabis – is scheduled to run Saturday through January. The full rec program is expected to begin in 2018.

Once the program fully launches, Nevada officials estimate tourists will account for 63% of the state’s recreational marijuana sales. More than 40 million tourists visited Las Vegas last year, and that demand potentially could make Nevada’s market bigger than Colorado’s and Washington state’s, observers predict.

–  Associated Press