By Brian Bahouth

Updated 6-5-17 at 3:49 PM:

Reno – Last Thursday amid a rancorous budget battle, Nevada Senate Bill 487 was “lost” on a bipartisan vote, and so died a measure that would enact Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval’s pledge to impose a 10 percent tax on the retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products and earmark the money for education; but on Sunday June 4 Senators rescinded the “lossage,” and an amended version of SB 487 passed the Senate on a 15 to 9 margin.  A super majority is needed because the measure imposes a new tax, and today on the final day of the 120 day biennial legislative session, the Assembly passed SB 487 back to the Senate by a 32 to 9 margin with one  member not voting.  If no amendments are proposed, the Senate will forward to the bill to Governor’s desk.

In his 2017 State of the State Address, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval said he would impose a 10 percent tax at point of sale for adult use marijuana products sold in Nevada, and Nevada Senate Bill 487 would impose a 10 percent excise tax on the retail sale of marijuana and direct the money toward education or the state Distributive School Account, but an amendment added to the bill Sunday would direct the proceeds of the 10 percent excise tax “to Stabilize the Operation of the State Government, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, in the State General Fund.”

Republican Governor Sandoval initially budgeted for $140 million dollars in marijuana tax revenue over the biennium, and under the Governor’s proposed budget cannabis taxes would need to makeup five to seven percent of state education funding over the biennium, so how lawmakers compensate for the change in destination of the 10 percent excise tax remains to be seen, but the budgetary importance of marijuana is diminished in the amended version of SB 487, which may prove wise considering the uncertainty regarding the amount the state will collect.

Senate Bill 487 is also important in that it would authorize cities with fewer than 100,000 residents to license a medical marijuana establishment without the license being processed through the host county.  Residents in the city of West Wendover, for instance, voted in favor of Ballot Question 2, an initiative that legalizes the possession and regulated sale of marijuana to those 21 years of age and older, but Elko County continues to maintain a moratorium on any kind of marijuana business, medical or adult use, and SB 487 as written, would enable West Wendover to be granted a single license for a medical marijuana dispensary.

And the amended version of SB 487 more specifically ensures medical marijuana patients will not pay the taxes associated with the purchase of “retail” cannabis as described in the bill, though medical patients in Nevada will continue to pay state and local sales taxes and other taxes on medicine.