Recent comments from the Trump administration regarding recreational marijuana use caused at least one Nevada cannabis company to “pump the brakes.”
The results from election night were supposed to bring a boon to the Silver State’s cannabis industry.
Terra Tech operates four dispensaries in Nevada and one in Oakland, California, along with a cultivation facility. CEO Derek Peterson said in November, after 54 percent of voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana, that his company planned to double its Nevada employee count to more than 350 within a year.
But uncertainty about how the Trump administration will deal with states that have legalized recreational marijuana has prompted Terra Tech to reevaluate its plans, Peterson said last week.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said last month that the Justice Department would ramp up enforcement of the federal marijuana laws. And U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last week that the department would review an Obama administration memo that gave states flexibility to pass marijuana laws, the Associated Press reported.
NOT EVERYONE PRESSING PAUSE
State officials hope to dole out temporary licenses for recreational sales by July 1, and those plans are in place despite a potential Trump administration crackdown.
While Terra Tech is exercising caution, other companies have no intention of slowing.
“We’re full steam ahead,” said Jason Sturtsman, owner of marijuana cultivation and production facility HOPE in North Las Vegas.
Euphoria Wellness, 7780 S. Jones Blvd., recently bought the office suite next to its dispensary, which will double the store’s footprint, company spokesman Jim Ferrence said.
But Peterson, Sturtsman and Ferrence all agreed that Spicer’s comments — which made clear that Trump sees recreational and medical marijuana differently — offer hope.
Twenty-eight states have legal medical marijuana (compared to just eight with legal recreational). Cannabis remains illegal under federal law, so those states and companies selling the drug have been operating under uncertainty since the beginning, Peterson noted.
“I’m honestly thrilled that we got some semblance of policy stance that medical is OK,” he said.
Terra Tech plans to refocus on the medical side, Peterson said. And he hopes Nevada lawmakers will do the same.
In order for Nevada’s industry to bloom, the state needs medical marijuana to be more accessible, Peterson said.
Medical marijuana cards in Nevada cost about $100 and need to be renewed annually, along with an annual recommendation from a doctor. California requires just the recommendation.
Terra Tech’s Oakland dispensary gets about 1,000 customers a day and has projected annual revenue of more than $14 million. That is due largely to the lax access California’s medical program provides, Peterson said.
Enter Nevada’s most pot-friendly lawmaker, state Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas.
A Segerblom proposal in the Nevada Legislature would relax the state’s medical marijuana card requirements. The bill has not been drafted, but changes could range from having cards last for two years to simply adopting California’s model, he said.
“How far we go, I think, depends on what Trump does,” Segerblom said. “The main thing we want to do is keep it cheaper and provide easier access.”
NOT SO FAST
But Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has the power to veto bills passed by the Legislature, doesn’t appear to be on board with making medical marijuana more accessible than its current state.
Daniel Stewart, general counsel for the governor’s office, on Friday told a state panel tasked with creating recommendations for marijuana regulations that Sandoval as no interest in loosening those laws.
“He’s not interested in action that would water down our current medicinal marijuana laws and regulations,” Stewart said.