Nevada’s medical marijuana laws go into effect today, making it legal in Nevada to sell, grow, test and tax medical marijuana. But don’t expect to see medical marijuana dispensaries, indoor grow facilities or labs to test the pot pop up right away in Nevada, government officials said. The ability to buy or grow medical marijuana to smoke or eat with a doctor’s prescription in Washoe County is still about 10 months away, said representatives of local governments.
“There are so many what ifs,” said Adam Mayberry, spokesman for the city of Sparks. “The reports I have seen put it at later this year or early 2015. It is possible you could see it by later this year — and I want to emphasis late.” Today is significant because it will mark the legalization of a new industry — one that is designed to ease pain for many afflictions. It is also expected to be a money maker for its participants, a job producer and a fresh tax sources for state and local governments.
“Now everyone can go forward (with plans),” said state Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas. He was the major sponsor of the bill in the 2013 Legislature that legalized the various components of the medical marijuana business. “Before, we were all talking about what to do but it wasn’t yet legal,” Segerblom said. “But as of (Tuesday), it will now be legal to have marijuana dispensaries, marijuana grow houses and marijuana cooking facilities for edibles in the state of Nevada.”
The state of Nevada, Sparks, Reno and Washoe County are all moving forward with the process of managing, controlling and taxing the burgeoning industry. The state is accepting job applications and is interviewing job candidates for 12 permanent and 15-part-time staffers necessary to manage and process applications of potential growers and sellers of medical marijuana. Once they are hired, sometime in May or June, the state will issue a 45-day notice as to when they will accept applications for the growing and selling of medical marijuana. It will accept applications over a two-week period.
Hiring the permanent staff is the key to getting the application process moving, said Marla McDade-Williams, deputy administrator of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. “We need our permanent people on staff,” McDade-Williams said. “We’ve got the (application) forms mostly developed but we have to get them finalized. We have to train our permanent staff so they can then train the temporary staff. So really the permanent staff is the key before we will be ready to go.” Washoe County already has a plan to change county codes to allow for the medical marijuana business, said Commissioner Kitty Jung. The Washoe Commission will hold a public hearing — and possibly vote on the code changes for medical marijuana — at next week’s meeting, Jung said.
There is little opposition among the county commissioners for setting up the marijuana business in the unincorporated areas of Washoe County, Jung said. “I recall Chairman (David) Humke had a concern about federal law and state law,” Jung said. “But he’s a lawyer who is running for judge, so he comes at it from a different perspective. But other than that, my other three colleagues have been completely supportive.” In Sparks, zoning codes for marijuana grow houses are expected to be considered by the City Council on April 28. Sparks is also working on zoning codes for the dispensaries, which could be discussed by the city council on June 9, Mayberry said.
“We are also working with the business licenses as well,” Mayberry said. “So there are three different components that are underway. We have made some good process.” Sparks has areas within its border that would be good spots for the grow houses, Mayberry said. Sparks is also expected to have two dispensaries. “The city does have a fairly large industrial area where there is opportunity for those who are in the (grow house) business and they are already exploring that,” Mayberry said.
The city of Reno has set up a committee to oversee the roll-out of the medical marijuana business within city limits. The committee — made up of city employees from departments that would be affected by the new law — meets again in April. The Reno City Council is expected to take up the issue of the medical marijuana business sometime in May, said Deputy Police Chief Tom Robinson, a member of the medical marijuana committee.
“It is hard to say as to what the council’s direction might be,” Robinson said. “But the one thing they care about is that they want us to make sure we completely research this issue and understand all of the things that are impacted because they want to make an informed decision. They don’t want to go into this thing willy-nilly.”
People may underestimate the work the city of Reno is doing on the issue, Robinson said. “There is a misconception that the city is not doing anything about it,” Robinson said. “Actually, the opposite is going on. We are just being very methodical. We are doing our due diligence. We are making sure we don’t rush into something that we are not equipped to handle, so we are researching the law.”
The state expects more than 400 applications for those wanting to get in the business by growing, cooking or selling medical marijuana, McDade-Williams said. The state will also get a 2 percent tax on the wholesale and retail sales of marijuana, she said. Local governments are expecting to glean sales and property taxes from the medical marijuana business. “We don’t have a fee schedule yet,” said Washoe’s Jung. “But we are enthusiastically anticipating that this will be a good diversification of our revenue.”
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