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Marijuana dispensary bill clears its first Nevada legislative committee


CARSON CITY — Nevada’s 3,400 medical marijuana patients could buy their medication through licensed, state-regulated dispensaries under a bill that won unanimous Senate Judiciary Committee approval Thursday.

“This is not the Jerry Garcia lounge,” said Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas. “You won’t get a seed unless we can track it. We want to make sure it is done right and excess revenue goes to the (public school fund).”

Under the amended version of 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 patients only 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.

Hutchison and Sen. Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, 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.

Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, noted that marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but added, “We don’t always listen to President Obama.”

Chairman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, led the move to set up marijuana dispensaries. He and other legislators recently visited the medical marijuana dispensary in Phoenix.

The hearings have produced a lot of laughs.

Under the bill, medical marijuana patients would be allowed to grow up to 25 plants, not seven as under the current law. 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.

Before going to the Senate floor, the bill must be referred to the Senate Finance Committee to discuss potential costs in starting up the program.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said he voted for medical marijuana, but would wait until he sees the final version of SB374 before he decides to sign it. But he was clear he opposes a bill proposed by Assembly Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas, to allow all adult Nevada citizens to use marijuana for recreational purposes.

“I was supportive of the constitutional amendment that allowed for the use of medical marijuana; I don’t support the decriminalization of marijuana possession,” Sandoval said.

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.”

Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley contributed to this report. Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

 

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