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North Las Vegas examines regulating medical marijuana

Look at what Las Vegas and Clark County have done, then do the opposite.

That was the consensus reached at North Las Vegas City Hall on Tuesday night, where a healthy crowd warned city leaders against over-regulating their share of 40 pot grow houses, dispensaries and testing facilities recently authorized under Assembly Bill 374.

Officials — meeting at the first of several town halls aimed at crafting a regulatory approach to the newly state-sanctioned medical marijuana facilities — didn’t say when they plan to introduce an ordinance to allow city pot operations.

That didn’t stop dozens of medical marijuana users and advocates from telling city leaders how they should avoid a handful of potential licensing and zoning pratfalls encountered by their municipal neighbors.

Las Vegas attorney Bruce Gale advised council members to give prospective medical marijuana facility operators a little more wiggle room on zoning application deadlines than their municipal counterparts.

“Clark County finalized their zoning and licensing regulations last Wednesday, and individuals who had been in a holding pattern regarding their property acquisitions were given basically 27 days to get their preliminary form completed by the county,” Gale said during Tuesday’s hourlong question-and-answer session. “Please, please, please temper your restrictions.”

Longtime resident Sheri Harris touted onsite medical consultations as just one of many ways city officials might pull away from the pack of municipalities set to tackle marijuana in the weeks and months to come.

Harris, who has multiple sclerosis, echoed Gale’s concerns over existing red tape.

She hopes cash-strapped city officials can find a way to avoid it.

“If you look at the way things are in Las Vegas and Clark County, it’s really prohibitive right now,” Harris said. “I just don’t want to see prices go up to $500 an ounce.

“(North Las Vegas) needs the money more than anybody. They would be remiss if they missed out on this.”

Las Vegas officials have faced wide-ranging criticism over proposals aimed at blocking sales of marijuana candy and gum and limiting access to patients in hats and sunglasses.

North Las Vegas leaders report they plan to follow Las Vegas’ lead in separating medical marijuana grow houses and dispensaries and barring out-of-state business owners from running municipal pot facilities.

They also hope to carve out a local market niche in “green zones” — warehouse-sized grow houses leaders predict will prove a perfect fit for the city’s APEX Industrial Park.

Officials expect to start accepting license applications as soon as Nevada regulators sign off on applicants seeking state-level approval later this summer.

Community Development and Compliance Director Greg Blackburn, the official charged with crafting North Las Vegas’ pot planning approach, expects city planning commissioners to take up the topic by the middle of May.

He couldn’t say what extra teeth, if any, they might look to put into existing state licensing and zoning regulations.

Mayor Pro Tem Anita Wood, who backed an unofficial moratorium on the topic announced in November, has since warmed to the idea of municipal pot facilities.

Wood declined to comment on specifics surrounding the city’s regulatory approach.

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

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