Sandoval signs bill setting up medical marijuana dispensaries

CARSON CITY — In a surprise, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed into law Wednesday evening Sen. Tick Segerblom’s bill to create state-regulated marijuana dispensaries and grow farms to provide pot to the state’s 3,785 medical marijuana patients.

Sandoval’s signing of Senate Bill 374 was in doubt since Tuesday he had expressed concern about the startup costs of the program that in the long run may provide the state millions of dollars in tax revenue. The bill would allow the creation of as many as 40 dispensaries in Clark County alone. Details of the program must be worked out in coming months by the state Health Division. Federal law still makes possession and use of any marijuana a crime, although actions are not being taken against medical marijuana patients.

“I applaud the governor for recognizing it is time Nevada lived up to its constitutional mandate and provided access for patients who have legitimate medical needs for marijuana,” said Segerblom, D-Las Vegas.

Nevada voters in 1998 and 2000 passed a constitutional amendment allowing sick people with doctors’ permission to acquire legal marijuana. But the 2001 law carrying out the amendment stipulated patients had to grow their own marijuana. In a decision last year, Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley declared the law unconstitutional because it did not provide a legal way for some patients, many without growing skills, to acquire marijuana.

Like many of the bills he has signed since the Legislature adjourned June 4, Republican Sandoval signed a bill that most GOP legislators opposed. Four of 10 Senate Republicans and 14 of 15 Assembly Republicans voted against the bill, favored by every Democrat.

Sandoval has 10 working days following the end of legislative sessions to sign or veto bills. Since some arrived at his office this week, he could be signing measures into law next week as well.

On Wednesday, he gave his consent to 34 more bills. They included:

—Assembly Bill 413 allows the Clark County Commission, with approval of two-thirds of its members, to assess a gas tax increase of about 3 cents per gallon a year for three years. Voters in 2016 would decide whether to continue or end the tax.

—Assembly Bill 475 continues $649 million in payroll, sales and business license taxes set to expire June 30 through June 30, 2015. Sandoval maintained the taxes were necessary to balance his $6.6 billion state budget. Only nine of 63 legislators disagreed. All were Republicans.

—Senate Bill 487 provides $5 million to improve the long-term solvency of the Governor Kenny Guinn Millennium Scholarship Program. Sandoval, who as attorney general was a close friend of Guinn, sought the expenditure, which won unanimous support.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.