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Nevada’s new cannabis regulator wants to uphold ‘gold standard,’ touts pro-business stance

Lombardo appointee assumes oversight as Nevada industry grapples with consumption lounges, considers how legal cannabis fits in at large events.
Naoka Foreman
Naoka Foreman
Marijuana
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Jimmy Humm, the newly appointed executive director of the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB), wants to uphold “the gold standard” regulations of the agency that are modeled after the state’s rigorous oversight of casinos, while looking at opportunities to cut back on overly burdensome regulations.

Humm was appointed to lead the regulatory agency by Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo in early December, after previously working in the Governor's Office of Economic Development and attorney general’s office. Former Executive Director Tyler Klimas, who was appointed by Democratic former Gov. Steve Sisolak and led the agency for its first four years, resigned in December to start a cannabis and hemp consulting business.

Humm, who touted his “pro-business” stance, said the legal cannabis industry is no longer in its infancy and that he wants to address industry professionals' pressing concerns regarding unlicensed operators and burdensome regulations. In an interview with The Nevada Independent last month, he said one difference will be a focus on new laws that passed during the 2023 legislative session, such as increased limits on how much cannabis someone can purchase in a day, allowing certain ex-offenders to return to cannabis workplaces, ending time and effort billing and capping fines at $20,000 per violation.

“Industry has already come to me with ideas and saying … how heavily regulated [the market] is,” Humm said. “These are the things that I want to look at with industry, potentially look to change at the next legislative session — but at the same time, we're bound by [state law].” 

He said he wants to create a sense of certainty in the industry — which boasts a labor force of more than 14,000 workers — as it relates to regulations and to stabilize the market. Cannabis businesses in Nevada did nearly $850 million in sales for fiscal year 2023 and returned more than $133 million to the state in taxes. 

Humm said he, along with Lombardo and the governor’s senior leadership team, will “hash out” how to grow and evolve the industry by assessing which regulations are working and which ones are not. He said with Lombardo’s background in law enforcement, dismantling the unlicensed cannabis market is a priority.

According to a 2020 illegal market report, the Nevada Cannabis Association estimates that between 70 percent and 80 percent of actual cannabis sales in the state came from the unregulated market that year.

Humm said he is also focused on running a more transparent agency and is promoting a survey for consumers and industry members that started under Klimas to assess the market, as officials continue to rework the legal framework of the commercial cannabis industry. Stakeholders have until Feb. 29 to submit a response. 

Topics up for discussion in the survey are the cost of entry, which requires licensees to have $200,000 in liquid assets, addressing unlicensed operators, social equity measures and additional licenses.

A portrait of Jimmy Humm, executive director of the Cannabis Compliance Board. (Courtesy of the CCB/Jimmy Humm)

“We want everyone to have the opportunity to get into not only this market, but every market,” Humm said. “That's just my overriding goal, but specific to this market.”

Delays on lounges, debates about events

Cannabis consumption lounges were legalized in Nevada through AB341 in 2021, promising for the first time public places to legally consume cannabis several years after voters authorized recreational use in 2016. But nearly three years later, few state-regulated lounges have opened, and Humm said he is not sure what’s causing the holdup.

“I don't want to force anybody to market too soon,” Humm said of consumption lounge licensees. “We’re really just waiting on them.”

Another unresolved issue regulators need to grapple with is how cannabis might be legally provided at events in the state.

Cannabis lobbyist Chris Anderson, who represents multiple dispensaries, has again raised a proposed regulation that would authorize large-scale temporary cannabis permits for events. The policy previously required events to serve at least 25,000 people; that was dropped to a minimum of 10,000 in the most recent proposal, which he brought up during a CCB workshop last week.

Commenters shared mixed feelings about the new licenses, with attorney Amanda Connor, who represents “key industry players” throughout Nevada, stating that the move was untimely, pointing at how lawmakers have refrained from passing laws that legalize cannabis events in the state. She also said the proposal was a cause of concern because the language mirrors consumption lounge regulations.

“There are things that need to be clarified, tweaked, worked through with those regulations — consumer safety, employee safety, product security — that are coming up as we're going through the lounge process,” Connor said at the meeting, “thus, making this a bit premature.”

Influential cannabis brands — Jardin Premium Cannabis Dispensary and Planet 13 — went on record to support Anderson’s proposal after opposing a bill that required a minimum capacity of 750 people during the 2023 legislative session. RNBW Cannabis, which has ties to the large-scale music festival Electric Daisy Carnival, also supported the idea of allowing cannabis permits at events with at least 10,000 attendees.

Although the CCB took no official action on the idea last week, Humm said he favored  Anderson’s proposal but said the agency is not interested in allowing legal cannabis sales at smaller events of less than 10,000 people unless lawmakers pass a bill.

“Here, we mostly feel that if we're going to have smaller events, it's going to have to go through statutory changes to happen,” said Michael Miles, deputy director at the CCB. “This is just going to be large-scale events, and these should only be a few … in the state.” 

Stalled remediation labeling

A regulation requiring cultivation businesses to label products that have been treated with radiation was authorized at the CCB in 2022, but regulators have stalled on enforcing the rule, causing some cannabis industry members to push for its implementation at the last workshop meeting

The process is used by cultivators to quickly rid flowers that fail microbial testing of pathogens, mold and bacteria, to meet compliance standards.

Remediation involves the use of chemicals, heat or gasses, while irradiation is a technique in which gamma rays zap plants with a radioactive substance to kill microbes.

Critics who spoke at the meeting said current processes allow companies to sell cannabis products that include dead cells and mold, which they say is cause for concern for immunocompromised users.

“I'm not here to debate whether or not radiating flower is good or not good,” said medical cannabis advocate Nicole Buffong, the national community program director for Minorities for Marijuana. “I just know that as a conscious consumer, I don't want to smoke remediated flower or [use] any products that have been remediated.” 

The remediation and irradiation of products has to be approved by the CCB, according to Kara Cronkhite, the lead agriculture investigator and auditor at the agency. But Buffong said that information is not readily available to everyday consumers.

“Where can consumers find this information, besides from somebody like me who's an industry insider that knows who's using radiation, remediation and who doesn't?” she said. 

CCB spokesperson Sara Tajalli wrote in an email that the agency is working with the Legislative Commission on new regulation language before they enforce the labeling of radiated products.

Miles said board members had cause to pull the regulations, which happened days after they passed on Dec. 12, 2022. 

“It was put on hold because of [cultivations] who do not want this on the labels,” Miles said.

This story was updated at 8 p.m. on 2/12/24 to correct the attributions of three quotes. The speaker was Michael Miles.

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