North Las Vegas to welcome medical pot opportunities after all

North Las Vegas plans to hop on the medical marijuana bandwagon after all.

A top city official said Tuesday that a town hall meeting to kick-start regulations on medical pot dispensaries and growing operations will be held April 22.

But Ryann Juden, chief of staff in the mayor’s office, declined to comment on whether the city’s marijuana turnaround was brought about by its worsening financial circumstances.

City Council members, who have not yet reversed an unofficial moratorium on pot, did not return requests for comment on how much the fees and taxes on such operations could bring to the cash-strapped city.

The city faces an $18 million deficit next year and was recently named the riskiest non-bankrupt municipal bond investment in the country.

A 2013 economic impact report solicited by state Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, estimates Nevada could rake in more than $33 million in application, license and tax revenue in the first year after allowing marijuana dispensaries to operate.

Nevada’s fourth-largest city counts as something of a latecomer to the pot party, with City Council members set to announce efforts to regulate state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries, grow houses and testing facilities more than a month after their counterparts in Las Vegas and Clark County.

That delay could help city leaders dodge some of the criticism encountered by Las Vegas’ planning department over proposals aimed at blocking sales of marijuana candy and gum and limiting access to patients in hats and sunglasses.

It also could aid city efforts to attract warehouse-sized grow houses to APEX Industrial Park, the 22,000-acre commercial zone officials have identified as the centerpiece of North Las Vegas’ newly announced regulatory efforts.

The city plans to follow Las Vegas’ lead in separating medical marijuana grow houses and dispensaries and will not allow out-of-state businesses to run municipal pot facilities, the Review-Journal has learned.

Officials hope to start accepting license applications as soon as Nevada regulators sign off on an estimated 425 applicants expected to seek state approval later this summer.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Nevada since 2000, but it took legislators 14 years to clear the way for dispensary facilities to operate in the state.

North Las Vegas counts as the third Southern Nevada municipality to welcome its share of 40 dispensaries authorized under Assembly Bill 374, which went into effect April 1.

Henderson has enacted a moratorium on dispensary license applications, and City Council members in Boulder City have rejected the facilities.

Juden confirmed that city staffers have been working on drafting regulations “in conjunction with other entities” but didn’t say who those people might be or how long they have been working together on the proposal.

Mayor John Lee in November told city planning commissioners not to bother with pot-related zoning items, warning “if they get past you guys, they’ll be killed by us.”

Juden and other staffers plan to attend the first of several town hall meetings on the topic at 6 p.m. April 22 at City Hall, 2250 Las Vegas Blvd. North.

Contact James DeHaven at jdehaven@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3839. Find him on Twitter @JamesDeHaven.