Two Nevada Republican leaders are asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions for guidance on federal regulation of marijuana as state legislators prepare to construct a budget partially based on taxing retail sales of the drug.
In a letter sent Wednesday, Assembly Minority Leader Paul Anderson and Senate Assistant Minority Ben Kieckhefer requested more guidance from Sessions on his plans for marijuana enforcement. The former Alabama senator is a longtime foe of marijuana legalization, and his appointment as attorney general has worried lawmakers from states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana.
While noting the federal government’s “supremacy” over states in drug enforcement, the two Republicans asked Sessions for guidance due to the “significant speculation” on what the federal government plans to do in states such as Nevada that have legalized recreational marijuana.
“With Nevada’s legislature scheduled to adjourn on June 5, 2017, we would hate to build a budget based on tax revenue projections that won’t materialize due to federal enforcement actions,” they wrote.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval unveiled plans in January for a 10 percent tax on retails sales of marijuana as a way of generating an extra $69 million for his proposed two-year budget. The legislative form of that tax increase is scheduled for a hearing Thursday afternoon.
Nevada voters approved legalizing marijuana for recreational use by a 54 to 46 percent margin in 2016, with state regulators charged with setting up a regulatory structure by the end of the year.
Both Nevada senators — Republican Dean Heller and Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto — have sent a joint letter asking Sessions to take a hands-off approach on state marijuana policy.
Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said in a February statement that his office didn’t want to speculate on federal marijuana policy
“How the federal government might act with regard to the legalization of marijuana under state laws is unknown at this time, so it would be premature to suggest what, if any action, will be taken,” a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said in a statement. “Of course, not every action taken by the federal government, much less every statement made the president or his staff, constitutes federal overreach.”
Feature photo: A medical marijuana patient, right, pays for cannabis at Reef Dispensaries at 3400 Western Ave. on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Photo by Jeff Scheid.