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Unincorporated Clark County could house Southern Nevada medical marijuana dispensaries


CARSON CITY — One small area of unincorporated Clark County could end up becoming medical marijuana central in Southern Nevada if other jurisdictions choose not to allow dispensaries to operate, a state panel was told Monday.

State regulations being developed to guide the establishment of dispensaries will allow the Clark County Commission to license more dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county if cities including Henderson and Las Vegas decide not to allow their operation, said Marla McDade Williams, deputy administrator of the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health.

The Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice, composed of lawmakers, judiciary members, law enforcement officials and other groups, was updated on the regulatory process at its meeting.

McDade Williams made her comments in response to a question from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Chuck Callaway, who is on the panel.

“If the county said we’re going to take on the percentage that would have been in the city, or have been in Henderson, and the county has a certain area, let’s say hypothetically Industrial Road, designated as the area for those businesses, then could we have all 40 businesses in that one stretch of geographical area and, if so, how does that help the patients?” Callaway asked. “The whole reason for that language in the law was so that patients would have access. If they are all in one geographical location it seems like that kind of defeats that purpose.”

McDade Williams said: “I think that is something that can happen.”

The law limits the number of dispensaries in any one jurisdiction in Clark County to no more than 25 percent of the total 40 dispensaries allowed to operate.

But the regulations also allow the Clark County Commission to operate more dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of the county if cities do not allow them to operate and if commissioners determine additional dispensaries are needed to ensure patients have access to the product.

Several cities, including Las Vegas and Henderson, have placed a moratorium on the establishment of dispensaries while the state regulations are finalized. It does not mean the jurisdictions will prohibit their operation.

Similar discussions are underway throughout the state as the dispensaries are debated in counties and cities.

Senate Bill 374 passed in the 2013 session of the Nevada Legislature established a process for medical marijuana dispensaries to operate around the state.

State regulations guiding the licensing of the facilities are due to be finalized by April 1. It is not yet clear when the dispensaries will start operating.

Clark County officials are still working on local rules to govern where such facilities can operate.

The discussion prompted state Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, to express pessimism about whether the dispensary law will work.

Brower said that he reluctantly supported the measure but that he has concerns for city and county officials trying to accommodate the law because possession of marijuana for any purpose remains illegal under federal law.

He urged local officials to come to the Legislature in 2015 and express their concerns if the law is unworkable.

“I’m just not sure this can work, and what the Legislature gives the Legislature can take away,” Brower said. “And if we need to redo this, I think we need to be made aware of that by the cities and the counties.”

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, the panel’s chairman and author of the dispensary bill, disagreed with Brower.

“I think it’s going to happen,” he said.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.

 

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