Recreational marijuana is now legal in Nevada — but the rollout isn’t exactly going according to plan. Marijuana producers are allowed to take every step involved in bringing cannabis from the soil to the store, except for one: distribution. That means vertically integrated companies like Reef — which has a massive operation off the Last Vegas strip where hundreds of pounds of weed are both grown and sold every day — have to hire third-party distributors just to move marijuana down their own hallway.
This quirk is a side-effect of special interest politics, Nevada-style. The voter initiative that legalized recreational marijuana last November included a provision intended to appease the state’s powerful liquor lobby: For the first 18 months of legalization, only existing alcohol wholesalers could get licenses to distribute cannabis, meaning transport it from the places where it’s grown to the retail locations where it’s sold. So far, only two companies have actually gotten distribution licenses.
The state, afraid there won’t be enough distributors to meet growing demand, tried to open up license applications to other types of companies. But a small group of liquor wholesalers sued, fighting to preserve its 18-month monopoly.
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