Just one day ahead of the state legislature’s final deadline, Nevada lawmakers reached a deal late Sunday night that would set the state’s cannabis tax rate and send much of the revenue to public education.
The Senate measure passed around 11 p.m. Sunday night, includes a 10% tax on retail cannabis sales, and a 15% tax on growers. The Assembly is scheduled to concur Monday, with Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval expected to approve the budget package.
The cannabis tax is essentially the same as what Gov. Sandoval requested. Over the next two years, cannabis revenue will largely fund a $20 million boost for the state’s Opportunity Scholarships and provide $25 million to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), contingent on matching funds from private donors.
Instead of going to the education funding this biennium, it will instead go to the rainy day fund for emergency uses, after Senate Republicans had been withholding votes on the cannabis tax after unresolved policy issues—mainly, the Education Savings Accounts.
Republicans had originally said they would not support a budget that did not include funding for Educational Savings Accounts, a school voucher-like program that gives public money to families who pull their children from Nevada public schools.
State Sen. Julia Ratti, D-Sprarks told the Reno Gazette-Journal that putting the funds into the rainy day fund was the best option, given how late in the session it is. To put the funds into education this year, Ratti said, the legislature would need to reopen the K-12 budget, which has already been passed and sent on to the governor.
“I am actually quite pleased that it’s going to the rainy day fund,” she said. “I think it’s a really good move to make sure the state regains some of its fiscal stability.”
Ratti described the state’s cannabis tax framework as a rational system that creates a difference in pricing between adult-use and medical marijuana.
“That is really important to us,” she said, “making sure that we maintain a vibrant medical marijuana industry.”
Nevada Senate Majority Leader Aaron D. Ford, D-Las Vegas, praised the agreement in a statement issued after the Senate vote last night.
“With strong consumer protections in place, our recreational marijuana industry is poised to become a critically important source of revenue for Nevada,” Ford said.
With Gov. Sandoval’s expected approval, the budget deal will allow Nevada will dodge a nearly $290 million budget hole.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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