CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada judge has cleared the way for the state’s marijuana regulators to start issuing cannabis distribution licenses to businesses other than existing alcohol wholesalers.
Carson City District Judge James Russell lifted a temporary restraining order Thursday that had forced the state to adhere to a provision of the ballot measure voters approved in November providing liquor wholesalers exclusive rights to marijuana distribution for 18 months unless they couldn’t keep up with market demand.
Russell said after an hour-long hearing there’s overwhelming evidence that alcohol wholesalers don’t have the capability to meet the needs of dozens of recreational cannabis dispensaries from Las Vegas to Reno.
He says a group of alcohol distributors that filed suit over the matter is free to appeal their case to the Nevada Tax Commission, as required by law. But he says he has no power to supersede the authority of the state agency that recently determined there’s an insufficient number of alcohol businesses to handle the job.
Nevada’s Taxation Department says the protracted legal fight has created a delivery bottleneck that’s undermining an otherwise robust marijuana industry and the state revenue that comes with it.
Legal sales started with a bang July 1. But Tax Director Deonne Contine says the tiny distribution network’s inability to keep pace with demand is forcing up prices and sending buyers back to the black market.
She says it’s also jeopardizing worker safety at dispensaries forced to stockpile supplies and huge amounts of cash to accommodate erratic deliveries.