Pubdate: Sat, 24 Jan 2015
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV)
Copyright: 2015 Las Vegas Review-Journal
Author: John L. Smith


 From the news coming out of Washoe County, you'd almost think 
there's a glaucoma epidemic erupting at Lake Tahoe's Incline Village.

Not one, but three licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries have 
been issued to companies with plans to open pot shops at Incline and 
nearby Crystal Bay. Incline Village has just 8,000 permanent 
residents, but of course this isn't really about them.

The area bustles with visitors during ski season and vacationers 
seeking to beat the heat in summer. Lake Tahoe's South Shore casinos 
are just a few miles away. The region draws more than 4 million 
visitors a year.

As you might imagine, reasonable minds are again left to wonder 
whether county officials are following the intent and spirit of the 
state law, which at least officially was passed in an effort to give 
patients access to the product for medicinal purposes. Pain relief 
after surgery, help with nausea related to chemotherapy, that sort of 
thing. Not to provide party favors for Tahoe's tourist throngs.

Although even writing those words seems naive given the growing 
national interest in legalization of marijuana for recreational use, 
the law is still the law. And it's not being followed, according to a 
lawsuit filed by attorneys for Washoe Dispensary LLC, which as you 
might have guessed was snubbed during the licensing process.

In its court filing, Washoe Dispensary argues that the state's 
ranking system is flawed and, contrary to the intent of its authors, 
the law doesn't prevent one company from dominating the market. For 
its part, unlicensed Washoe Dispensary claims a licensed rival, Tryke 
Companies Reno LLC, shouldn't have been awarded two licenses. It also 
raises the issue of appropriate location now that Washoe has three of 
its five licenses designated for unincorporated areas tagged for the 
Incline area.

In a recent interview on KNPR's State of Nevada, an attorney for 
Washoe Dispensary, Ardea Canepa, said the state has failed to follow 
its own law, and the upcoming session of the Legislature might help 
provide a remedy. The Legislature, however, also could turn into a 
battleground as Democrats and Republicans weigh the political 
advantages of helping to promote the issue.

Although Nevada is known for its libertarian heritage, it's generally 
perceived the marijuana issue plays to the political advantage of 
Democrats over Republicans. Having a marijuana question on the 2016 
ballot, for instance, could energize voters otherwise unexcited about 
turning out at the polls.

Who knows, maybe pot has become so accepted that it transcends 
personal politics. But I seriously doubt it.

Promoters of medical marijuana in Nevada often have touted the 
economic benefits of legalization and have predicted secondary 
businesses would also grow. But I don't recall any of them saying 
prescription pot would be a boon for attorneys. It appears to be 
becoming just that with active lawsuits in Washoe and Clark counties 
and, I hear, other litigation under consideration by snubbed limited 
liability companies that poured substantial resources into the 
application process.

Nevada's experience appears to follow a national trend: Medical 
marijuana legalization leads to litigation. With so much potential 
profit on the line, maybe the court battles were inevitable.

They've certainly occurred across the nation. One example: Since 
2012, a stack of lawsuits have been filed in Arizona by companies and 
individuals. The state's Department of Health Services is scheduled 
to begin accepting dispensary applications this year. Growers who 
jumped the gun have paid the price. Organizations intent on expanding 
the definition of medical need are jousting, too.

 From jilted prospective licensees to disgruntled patients, pot 
politics is littered with litigation. Nevada's cannabis crowd has 
just begun to fight.

And all this time I thought marijuana was supposed to mellow out its users.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom