Nevada state Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, smells a sample of marijuana, Friday, March 24, 2017, as Christopher Price, a ''budtender'' at the Blum medical marijuana dispensary, describes the operation during a brief tour a the store on South Virginia Street, about a mile south of the main casino district, in Reno, Nev. A Las Vegas Democrat is seeking to start recreational marijuana sales in Nevada at least a few weeks earlier than currently planned, in mid-June. (Scott Sonner, Associated Press)

Nevadans could buy legal weed even sooner if state senator gets his way

CARSON CITY, Nev. — A Las Vegas Democrat is seeking to start recreational marijuana sales in Nevada at least a few weeks earlier than planned — in case something extends the state’s current timeline, he said at a Friday hearing.

Sen. Tick Segerblom wants pot sales to begin by mid-June.

State regulators are already working toward a July 1 launch, which would be six months ahead of a voter-mandated deadline.

The state will be ready by then to license medical marijuana dispensaries to ring up the state’s first sales of pot bought for fun — not treatment, Department of Taxation Director Deonne Contine said.

Senate Bill 302 would do much of what the department is currently vetting: implement sales taxes, some new rules and the general provisions of the legalization initiative voters passed in November.

“We’re not trying to compete with Taxation’s early-start program,” Segerblom said. “If their early-start program gets out there, we don’t need this bill, but if there’s hiccups in that or something, this would be an alternative.”

The tax department is also holding hearings on proposed pot rules.

“I would like to emphasize that I feel like that process is prudent and it is with a lot of thought and so I’m confident that the state will be ready to go on July 1,” Contine said.

With voter approval, Nevada legalized recreational pot for adults 21 and older last year. But there’s nowhere to legally buy marijuana for personal use until the state permits dispensaries to sell it.

Question 2 requires the state to do so by January 2018.

Segerblom’s bill would similarly give permission. It would install the 10 percent state sales tax on recreational marijuana that Gov. Brian Sandoval floated in January, as well as another 5 percent sales tax to benefit local governments. Segerblom said his measure would streamline collection.

“We both agree we want to have one inventory, one accounting system,” for various taxes on recreational and marijuana sales, he told Contine.

The bill would have the recreational marijuana industry operate under the medical marijuana regulations that took 15 years to implement in Nevada.

It would be replaced by the tax department’s rules once that agency begins licensing recreational pot shops.

Segerblom said he had intended the bill to get Nevada’s recreational marijuana industry off the ground even earlier, but it was delayed in the legislative process.

The bill would take effect immediately after his colleagues in the Democrat-controlled statehouse and the Republican governor sign on — a constitutional process that must be completed by mid-June.