“It’s marijuana,” said Clark County Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom. “From my perspective, whatever you do, no one should be going to jail for marijuana. It’s just marijuana.”
Segerblom is one of a number of advocates of medical use of marijuana who have worked for years to move the state to a different stance on the medicine. In 2000, voters approved the use of medicinal marijuana. However, Nevada cardholders were required to grow their medicine on their own. Now, 14 years later, the push for dispensaries in Nevada has been successful. Up to 55 dispensaries will be opening across the state. With the exception of some of the smaller counties, all the major cities and counties have approved dispensaries in their area.
In order to open a dispensary, applicants had to pay a $5,000 application fee plus processing cost. They had about three months to complete their applications and turn them in by mid-August. The Division of Pubic and Behavioral Health then had 90 days to review the applications. During the week of Nov. 3, the results of that review process were received. However, not all the applicants signed a release form allowing their results to be made public on the division’s website, so the public is still figuring out who the “winners” were. There is criticism of the secrecy.
It is believed that most of the funding is provided by local Nevadans. Legislators designed the law to encourage experienced out-of-state people to merge with locals. Most are a combination of local and out-of-state business people from Colorado, California, Arizona and Washington who have had experience with marijuana dispensaries.
“The amount of money that is being set forth is just incredible,” said Segerblom. “And it’s based upon the idea that they can make money down the road. I think realistically it’s because they think it’s going to be recreational in a couple of years.”
On Nov. 12, an initiative petition with 200,000 signatures was turned in, providing for recreational marijuana. It goes first to the Nevada Legislature, whose members can approve and enact it into law outright, reject it, or propose an alternative version of their own. If the legislature chooses either of the last two choices, the petition will go on the ballot in 2016—alongside the legislature’s version, in the case of the third choice. If voters approve the petition or a legislative alternative, Nevada could be looking at possible use of recreational marijuana in 2018.
As for the current law, applicants who received the provisional license from the state will then have to go to their local jurisdiction and go through whatever bureaucratic hoops the jurisdiction puts in place. According to Nevada Medical Marijuana Association director Kathryn Reiter, these range from a simple business license, special use permit, or a whole administrative review, as is the case in Sparks. “A lot of winners are now kind of looking at, Where we go from here? and we’ll see over the next six months where all this shakes out in terms of who has the authority to decide local jurisdiction over the state, which licensees get to open, those kind of things,” said Reiter. “We’re all hoping that there are no lawsuits, but we’ll see.”
The law provides zoning regulations for areas in which the dispensaries are allowed to open. Medical marijuana establishments must be located in their own separate buildings in commercial or industrial zones. They cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school or within 300 feet of day care, public parks, pools, playgrounds, religious buildings or any recreation facilities for children or teens.
Most applicants say they are going to open their doors early in 2015. Some moved forward in the local approval process before they received the state license. However, both state and local licensing is needed before they can open shop. “In reality, if you start today, build out your facility for a grow operation, you probably would have the built-out finished by the end of the year,” said Segerblom. “It takes three months to grow, so I’m saying by April you’ll definitely have some marijuana dispensaries open with product here in Nevada.”
Unlike neighboring states, Nevada cardholders are unable to consume marijuana on the premises of the dispensary. But, Nevada will create a medical marijuana tourist industry by allowing out-of-state cardholders to buy their medicine at a Nevada dispensary. Out-of-state cardholders will be allowed to buy from Nevada dispensaries if they have all the proper paperwork and have not exceeded a threshold of purchases of the medicine within a certain number of days in their own jurisdiction. Although they are allowed to purchase in Nevada, it is still illegal to drive the medication across state borders.
Medical marijuana is still legal only on the state level, so even with a state medical card, patients could potentially run into problems with the federal government. The good news is the “Obama administration has basically said, ‘Hands off, if the state is regulating it very closely we are not going to intervene,’” said Segerblom. As long as the local government is properly regulating it, patients should not have to worry about the federal government. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration is still bringing marijuana charges against people.
In addition, after President Obama took office with a hands-off policy, U.S. attorneys in California eventually started cracking down in a breach of the Obama policy, so there are no guarantees. Nevada U.S. Attorney David Bogden has generally said he will follow the lead of the U.S. Justice Department, which has given local prosecutors hands-off instructions.
Another problem arises when a patient is behind the wheel. The current DUI laws for marijuana are “per-se” intoxication laws, which states if a driver tests over a certain limit s/he automatically violates the law. The problem is that marijuana does not pass through the system quickly like alcohol. It can register for weeks. “There isn’t a method available for law enforcement right now to test someone for marijuana intoxication within a few hours of the test,” said Reiter. “A hair test, a blood test and pee test, might show someone who consumed marijuana a month ago.”
With a per-se law there is no room for interpretation. Efforts are underway to change this law. It is something that both the industry and law enforcement are concerned about. Segerblom is working on getting a bill passed to change that. “The DUI standard for marijuana is terrible,” he said. “It’s like anything in your system, and it’s an automatic DUI. That has no correlation to being under the influence.”
The current list of bill drafts requested from the legislative bill drafters for the 2015 Nevada Legislature has six marijuana measures of various kinds on it.
Nevada’s medical marijuana industry has come a long way since 2000 and still has some kinks to work out but the progress is being made. “It has been a long time coming, but the light is at the end of the tunnel and we will see dispensaries,” said Segerblom. “Once the public sees them, that’s the final thing. They are so immaculate and clean and professional that no one can object to it.”
No one will object to it. Yes, that’ll happen.
News Moderator: Shandar @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
Source: Sacramento, Chico and Reno News & Review: source for local news and events
Author: Marina Palmieri
Contact: Contact Us - Reno News & Review - Reno News & Review
Website: Reno News & Review - Pot progress - News - Local Stories - November 27, 2014