The Legislative Interim Finance committee on Thursday approved $887,491 in contingency funds to jump start the Taxation Department’s program to regulate, license and manage the new recreational marijuana law.
Taxation Director Deonne Contine told lawmakers the voter approved legalization of pot mandates the department have its regulations in place by 2018. That means not only having regulations in place but licensing of cultivators, distributors and retail outlets, laboratories to inspect the product, civil penalties for violations, mechanisms to collect the taxes and how to handle issuance, renewal and revocation of licenses.
“If we don’t start now, we are not going to be ready by Jan. 1, 2018,” Contine said.
Contine said if lawmakers make them wait until after July for the budget, they simply won’t be able to get it done.
The funding, however, drew two “No” votes: Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, and Assemblyman John Hambrick R-Las Vegas, who’s a retired federal law enforcement officer.
Kieckhefer said he was concerned about what might happen at the federal level under the Trump administration.
“The nomination of Jeff Sessions (as Attorney general) means this could cease to exist,” said Kieckhefer. “The federal government could shut all this down.”
Kieckhefer said before supporting the program, he wants some idea where the federal government will stand on the subject of recreational marijuana.
IFC Chairman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, asked pointedly if this was still a loan that would be repaid by Taxation once tax revenues form marijuana start rolling in. She was told it was but Sen. Becky Harris, R-Las Vegas, asked how that money would be repaid if the federal government clamped down.
Assembly Fiscal Analyst Cindy Jones told her the Legislature would be responsible and would have to cover the costs out of the General Fund.