The chamber’s Judiciary Committee heard passionate support for state Senate Bill 374 for hours during the rare weekend hearing.
The proposal would establish a framework to make pot available to medical marijuana card holders, imposing fees and requirements for growers, processors and dispensaries of marijuana. The bill also contains provisions to continue to allow home-growing. The taxes raised would first fund the regulatory structure for the state — any remaining balance would then go to education.
The state Senate already approved the measure which requires a two-thirds supermajority vote in both houses.
The bill faces a Monday night cutoff.
Nevada voters legalized medical marijuana in 2000, and pot cards started going out the next year. However, efforts to create a legal way for users to obtain the drug — aside from home growing processes — have all failed over the years.
State Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, told the committee he doesn’t support the concept of the bill, but that he believes it is the Legislature’s obligation to act because voters mandated access when they legalized the drug.
“I don’t think this is a good idea — I don’t think it’s a good policy for the state — but I lost that battle,” Hutchison said, adding, “You don’t get to pick and choose” what parts of the constitution to enforce.
The legal implications raised concern for some of the committee because using or possessing marijuana — including for medicinal purposes — is illegal under federal law. But that is a risk dispensaries would knowingly take when opening an operation in the Silver State, and it is why pharmacies will not distribute the drug.
“The second these dispensaries open their doors the federal government could crash in, confiscate everything and haul everyone off to jail,” Hutchison said. “That’s the reality of the world we live in.”
Still, numerous Nevadans filled the committee room in Carson City and a room in Las Vegas connected to the Capitol via video conference.
“I rely on this medicine highly to survive,” said Vicky Higgins of Las Vegas. “It doesn’t eliminate the pain, but it muffles it like a warm blanket and helps me function throughout the day.”
She said it’s time lawmakers provide a viable, legal system for medical marijuana distribution.
“We do not like feeling like criminals,” Higgins said.
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