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Town hall meeting tackles medical marijuana issue

Thirteen years ago, Michael McAuliffe considered himself a pariah as he started pushing to legalize medical marijuana in Nevada.

Not so much anymore. If anything, McAuliffe’s role in a town hall meeting that Clark County had about medical marijuana on Wednesday is another indication of how far the issue has come since the early days.

McAuliffe stood with county officials in front of an audience numbering about 200 and helped field questions alongside county officials.

The town hall meeting came at a pivotal time. County commissioners will hold a public hearing and vote next Wednesday on Clark County’s first ordinance allowing medical marijuana dispensaries and facilities for manufacturing, cultivating and testing medical marijuana.

And no one is ignoring guys like McAuliffe, who testified before the Nevada Legislature in 2013 when the bill was passed that allows Clark County to consider such an ordinance.

“They’ve realized that pot polls better than politics,” McAuliffe said after the meeting.

The state law allows at least 10 dispensaries in unincorporated Clark County.

The state law allows up to 40 when factoring in what other major cities in the county are allowed to have. However, Clark County has made the most strides toward passing an ordinance.

Henderson and Las Vegas are studying the issue and have moratoriums.

The Las Vegas moratorium expires on Monday, and city officials will decide whether to extend the moratorium for six months.

The cities of Mesquite, North Las Vegas and Boulder City have rejected the concept entirely.

The law allows the county to increase the percentage of dispensaries allowed if other cities don’t latch onto the idea. That is one example of what county officials will discuss as it looks to the future.

Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, who moderated the meeting, said that while he has questions about the ordinance, that doesn’t mean he is against medical marijuana.

“As for me, I’m still on the learning curve, trying to get it,” Weekly said.

The audience heard from Jay Matos, a supporter of the state law, who had traveled with state lawmakers on a research trip to Arizona to look at dispensaries.

Matos showed the audience photos from the trip, showing the security and inconspicuous nature of those businesses.

No one spoke against medical marijuana at the town hall meeting, but members of audience had plenty of questions about the application process for the new businesses.

Plenty of people are ready for dispensaries. Curtis Walker, 36, a Las Vegas resident in the audience, said he uses medical marijuana for migraine headaches and is looking forward to the change from relying on delivery services that have no retail presence.

“Now, I have to have a stranger come to my house,” Walker said.

The state’s on target to finalize the law’s regulation by April 1. Assuming the county ordinance passes, the commission will have a marathon hearing to review applications for dispensaries and other medical marijuana facilities.

Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin @reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781. Follow him on Twitter @BenBotkin1.

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