520 seek to sell, grow marijuana

Nevada has so far received 520 applications to operate one of four types of medical marijuana businesses in the state, nearly 100 more submissions than expected.

The deadline to apply was Aug. 18 and any applications postmarked by that date will be accepted so a few more may trickle in, says Pam Graber, education and information officer with the state’s Division of Public and Behavioral Health’s Medical Marijuana Program.

A few months ago, when the state was hiring personnel to process the applications, Marla McDade Williams, then deputy administrator of the division, said the office was gearing up for about 425 applications.

The 45-page application requires five years of an applicant’s tax records, proof of $250,000 in liquid assets, a detailed business plan and other information as well as a $5,000 non-refundable fee.

Among the 520 applications, 38 percent are for dispensaries where valid medical marijuana card holders can purchase product. About 35 percent are to run a facility to cultivate or grow marijuana. About a quarter, or 23 percent, are for a certificate to produce edible marijuana or marijuana-infused products and just 3 percent of the applications are to operate a lab to test marijuana-based products for levels of THC and cannabidiol, the chemical compounds with medicinal value, as well as for molds, fungus, fertilizers and other nutrients.

The bulk, or 70 percent, of the applications are for businesses located in Clark County while 20 percent are in Washoe County and 10 percent in the rest of the state.

The state can issue certificates for 40 dispensaries in Clark County, 10 in Washoe County, two in Carson City and one each in the remaining counties.

But Graber doesn’t anticipate the state will certify 66 dispensaries as allowed by law, mainly due to demand.

As of Aug. 1, there are 6,531 medical marijuana cardholders in the state who will be the industry’s primary customers. That’s grown from 4,963 in January, but still is not even half of one percent of the state’s population.

That could, of course, change if the state legalizes recreational marijuana, a move widely anticipated to be debated during the 2015 legislative session.

The current applications are being evaluated by three-person teams consisting of state personnel and outside contractors with experience in the medical marijuana industry as well as expertise in accounting, law enforcement, health inspection or one of several other relevant professions.

The applications will be judged in seven categories and can receive a maximum score of 250 points. The certificates will be awarded based on the highest scores.

For much of the process, except where identification is needed to evaluate such criteria as financial assets or criminal background, the applicant will remain unknown to the evaluators.

“The purpose is to keep anonymity in the picture with an eye towards fairness,” says Graber.

Graber says that’s in case any well-known Nevadans are on some of the teams applying. State luminaries are widely-rumored to be involved, some as investors in already experienced medical marijuana businesses applying to operate here.

“That’s a good thing,” says Ed Alexander, a medical marijuana card holder and an applicant to run a dispensary in Sparks. “The certificates should be issued to the most qualified applicants regardless of notoriety.”

The applications, by law, are confidential. But once approved, the businesses will have to apply for business licenses and meet other requirements mandated by the local jurisdictions.

The Sparks City Council, for example, last week passed rules regarding business license fees, which include a $5,000 annual fee for dispensaries, $3,000 yearly fee for cultivation and production facilities and an $80 annual fee for testing labs.

The state health division is expected to complete the application evaluations and issue certificates by Nov. 3.


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