Medical marijuana bill clears Senate Finance panel

A bill authorizing medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada cleared a key Senate committee Thursday, more than a decade after voters legalized medical marijuana.

Senate Bill 374 was approved by the Senate Finance Committee after the state Health Division indicated it could fund startup costs for managing the program with reserves in the medical marijuana registry account.

Nevada voters legalized medical marijuana in 2000, but there is no way for patients to legally obtain the drug unless they grow it themselves — a contradiction that the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada says makes the law unconstitutional.

A judge has also called Nevada’s current laws “ridiculous” in a case that’s before the Nevada Supreme Court.

SB374 is spearheaded by Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who in March took members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to Arizona to see how that state handles medical marijuana dispensaries.

Arizona voters approved medical marijuana in 2010, and about 30,000 people there have medical marijuana cards.

About 3,400 people have medical marijuana cards in Nevada.

The Nevada bill now moves to the Senate floor where a two-thirds majority, or 14 votes, is needed to advance it because of fees imposed on medical pot growers, processors and dispensaries.

It limits the number of dispensaries to as many as 40 in Clark County, which includes the state’s population hub of Las Vegas, but the number cannot exceed one dispensary for every 10 pharmacies.

Washoe County would be limited to 10 dispensaries, while smaller counties could have one or two, depending on population.

Applicants seeking to operate a medical marijuana establishment would have to pay a one-time, nonrefundable fee of $5,000, as well as costs for background investigations.

Besides that, initial registration certificate fees would run from $20,000 to operate a dispensary to $3,000 for a cultivation operation and $2,000 to make edible pot products. Renewal fees are less.


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