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Proposed medical marijuana rules criticized in Las Vegas

Las Vegas’ business licensing staff came under fire Wednesday from a couple of dozen people who said its proposed regulations on medical marijuana dispensaries bordered on “ridiculous,” including not being able to wear sunglasses and hats while purchasing the medication.

Other proposed regulations that drew the ire of some of the 100 who attended a city meeting included not allowing dispensary owners to refer patients to physicians, requiring three security guards, and keeping cultivation facilities separate from the dispensaries, which would be more costly for medical pot businesses.

“You should remove this entire page where it reads ‘prohibited activities,’ ” yelled William Baker, a patient advocate who thought the dress code scenario was silly, seeing that there are plenty of patients who turn to medical marijuana for their glaucoma and must wear sunglasses and hats.

Baker suggested that the city standardize its regulations along with Clark County’s and the state’s so that everybody is on the same page.

The meeting, which lasted only 40 minutes, was the first of two in which the business department is accepting feedback before it whittles down a 38-page draft into something more manageable to present to the City Council.

Karen Duddlesten, the city’s business manager, repeatedly reminded the sometimes contentious crowd that the draft was merely a draft, and that every comment would be considered before the City Council gets the final proposal in May. Then the council will either pass an ordinance allowing 10 dispensaries within the city or decide that medical marijuana dispensaries might not be such a good idea.

The city has been slow to welcome dispensaries since the Nevada Legislature passed Assembly Bill 374, which authorizes as many as 66 dispensaries in the Silver State and as many as 40 in Clark County. Each jurisdiction and major city in Clark County is entitled to 25 percent of the total 40, but so far only the County Commission has decided to accept the dispensaries.

The city of Las Vegas a few weeks ago said it would explore its options and come up with tentative regulations. But some of those proposals weren’t good enough for the attorneys, the patients, and even dispensary owners from other states such as Miles Kim, who owns four dispensaries in San Bernardino County, Calif., and might open one here.

“What will you do to protect us from the federal government?” he asked during the hearing.

William Horne, Nevada’s Assembly majority leader, reminded city staff and the audience that they should be careful to follow obvious laws that will keep them off the federal government’s radar. While the U.S. Department of Justice has pretty much made it clear that the enforcement of medical marijuana dispensaries is not a priority, Horne said dispensary owners should be careful that their product never crosses state lines.

He said federal rules were outlined by Deputy Attorney General James Cole in what is referred to as the “Cole Memo.” He said if they follow those rules, they shouldn’t have to worry about being raided by the federal government.

Others in the crowd, including Samantha Antone, a paralegal, said the city’s proposed regulations were a bit too constrictive.

She said she thinks that the city is “hedging its bets” at this point in trying to decide whether to allow the dispensaries.

“I’d like to see the next meeting last more than 40 minutes,” she said. “I’d like to see more of a discussion, but I understand that everybody is up against a tight deadline.”

On April 1, Nevada’s Division of Public and Behavioral Health is scheduled to post the state’s final regulations online. The Legislative Commission plans to vote on them on March 28.

The state doesn’t expect to start accepting applications for at least a few more months, according to Marla McDade Williams, the deputy administrator for the state’s medical marijuana program.

Contact reporter Tom Ragan at tragan@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512.

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