Marijuana advocates in Nevada celebrated on Tuesday as the state officially approved recreational marijuana use with 54.5% of the vote. But residents can't take advantage of the new measure just yet.
The Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative — also known as Question 2 — will officially take effect on Jan. 1, 2017. On that date, it will become legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as grow up to six marijuana plants per person (12 per household) in an enclosed space.
Buying and selling marijuana legally, however, won't be quite so easy at first. Though the law takes effect in 2017, the Nevada Department of Taxation has until Jan. 1, 2018 to hammer out the specifics of regulating the state's marijuana industry. Dispensaries can officially begin applying for recreational marijuana licenses after those regulations are put into place. In an interview with WHNT News, attorney Judah Zakalik speculated that it will likely be possible to start buying cannabis at dispensaries starting six to 12 months after Jan. 2018.
The timeline is similar to that of Colorado, where the first recreational marijuana sales began two years after being officially legalized in Jan. 2012. Zakalik also speculates, however, that Nevada may have an easier time regulating the industry, since the state has already legalized medical marijuana. Lawmakers can also learn from states that already have recreational marijuana regulations in place. It may also help that Nevada is no stranger to regulating unique industries, including gambling and prostitution.
Once the law is fully in effect, officials expect the new measure to be a boon to Nevada's economy. A study by Las Vegas-based RCG Economics predicts that recreational marijuana will result in more than $1.1 billion in economic activity and tax revenue within the first eight years the law is in place.
"All I know is that it's going to be positive for decriminalizing the plant and it's going to generate tax revenue for the state," Armen Yemenidjian, president and CEO of three Las Vegas-area medical marijuana dispensaries told the Las Vegas Sun. "It's a win-win."