On Wednesday, we learned that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval declared a “state of emergency” in the because they were running out of marijuana.
The new law – which permits retail sales and started July 1 – was such a high-flying success that they are quickly running out of pot.
So Sandoval asked for a series of emergency measures that will expand supply and distribution to the throngs of potheads who want to toke up in the Silver State (apparently, the tourists headed to Sin City on the Fourth of July weekend really dwindled their supply).
However, we’re learning the real reason why the state is so desperate to make sure that residents and tourists are given easy access to the demon weed: Money.
Specifically, tax money.
The Nevada Tax Commission voted unanimously in favor of the emergency measures to increase the supply of pot because the state’s budget anticipates tax revenue of about $100 million from marijuana sales alone. If there’s no pot to buy, there’s nobody paying that tax and that’s less money for the state. The Los Angeles Times reports:
The tax department director, Deonne Contine, said that of the nearly 70 liquor wholesalers in Nevada, seven had applied to transport marijuana. One was approved Wednesday and another Thursday.
Contine said the need to get supply to retailers was critical because the state budget included $100 million in anticipated tax revenue from marijuana sales. She said the regulation would allow the department to determine if there was an appetite outside the liquor wholesalers to become distributors.
Nevada has licensed roughly 100 marijuana growers, enough to supply the dispensaries as long as there is a way to transport the pot.
Dispensary owners testified at the hearing that they already have the experience and equipment to handle wholesale distribution of marijuana.
Kevin Benson, a lawyer representing the Independent Alcohol Distributors of Nevada, blamed the department for the broken supply chain, saying it had set up a cumbersome process and a time frame too short to meet rigorous licensing requirements while also getting approval to set up storage sites from local governments.
As a civil libertarian, I have no problem with consenting adults responsibly smoking marijuana – as long as their use doesn’t negatively affect anyone else. I don’t buy into the “gateway drug” argument or believe that marijuana is even remotely as addictive or dangerous as alcohol or other drugs we consume on a regular basis.
It is a lesson, however, in what happens when a government begins relying on tax revenue for habits and dalliances they’d rather curtail. Taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and even gas taxes are now prime government revenue streams. If you want to curb “undesirable behavior,” like smoking, drinking, driving high-mileage cars or smoking a joint, you’re in an odd position of profiting off of the very activity you’re openly proclaiming is a public nuisance.
It’s hypocritical, really. But then again … this is politics.