Pubdate: Thu, 27 Nov 2014
Source: Reno News & Review (NV)
Copyright: 2014, Chico Community Publishing, Inc.
Author: Marina Palmieri


Patients Must Be Patient a Little Longer

Medical dispensaries for marijuana will soon appear in Nevada, but 
they are not likely to be accompanied by the free-swinging procedures 
that once characterized the California industry.

"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 businesspeople 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. The feds

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.
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