CARSON CITY — Nevada’s 3,400 medical marijuana patients could buy their medication through licensed, state-regulated dispensaries under a bill that won unanimous support Thursday from the Senate Finance Committee.
Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said he was concerned that additional amendments are anticipated but won’t be addressed by the Senate before the bill goes to the Assembly. But it is an important piece of legislation and the system in place now is broken, he said.
Under Senate Bill 374, the state would license and regulate marijuana dispensaries and grow farms. A database would be created to watch that marijuana patients do not purchase more than the amount regulated by their doctors. Dispensaries also could sell to patients from other states if their states have similar databases. Licenses also would be given to people who want to create medical marijuana edibles such as brownies.
Nevada voters approved a constitutional amendment in the 1998 and 2000 elections allowing medical marijuana. But the 2001 law putting the amendment in effect allowed only patients to grow marijuana.
Last year Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley found that the law is unconstitutional because it does not give some patients a realistic way to acquire marijuana.
Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, led the move to set up marijuana dispensaries. He and other legislators earlier visited a medical marijuana dispensary in Phoenix to see how it operated.
Segerblom and other lawmakers supporting the bill want to make sure the dispensaries are run professionally like those in Arizona.
The bill would allow as many as 40 dispensaries in Clark County, 10 in Washoe County, two in Carson City and one in each of the other counties.
Gov. Brian Sandoval said earlier this session he voted for medical marijuana, but would wait until he sees the final version of SB374 before he decides to sign it.
The big issue is providing better access to medical marijuana for patients, he said.
“I think it’s premature to comment on what the form of that dispensation is going to be until it’s finalized,” Sandoval said. “As long as it is prescribed by a physician and accessibility is an issue for those who have been prescribed medical marijuana, I’m waiting to see what the format will take.”
The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a unanimous vote, but had to go to the Finance Committee because of the cost to set up the new program. But Segerblom said he expects the program to become a revenue generator for the state as more people sign up for medical marijuana cards when the product becomes more easily available.
It must pass the full Senate and the Assembly before it can go to the governor for his consideration. The Legislature must finish its work by June 3.
Sens. Mark Hutchison and Scott Hammond, both R-Las Vegas, and members of the Judiciary Committee, said they personally voted against the medical marijuana amendment, but felt compelled to follow the constitution and find a better way for patients to acquire marijuana.
“It is a constitutional right, regardless of how you feel about it,” Hutchison said.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3900.