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April 18, 2015

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Sandoval signs medical marijuana law, allowing dispensaries in Nevada


Andrew Doughman

Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore inspects the product and learns about the different uses for and varieties of marijuana during a trip to a dispensary in Arizona on Friday, March 22, 2013.

Updated Wednesday, June 12, 2013 | 9:55 p.m.

After 13 years of waiting, medical marijuana patients in Nevada will soon have a legal way to obtain the drug without growing it themselves.

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval signed SB374 into law Wednesday. The measure establishes the framework to make pot available to medical marijuana card holders, imposing fees and requirements for growers, processors and dispensaries of pot. It also contains provisions to continue to allow home-growing until 2016.

Nevadans voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2000 and a year later were able to obtain medical marijuana cards. However, legislative efforts to create a legal way for users to obtain the drug — aside from growing a small number of plants at home — have all failed over the years.

Now, their wait is over.

"This new law will provide patients with the safe and reliable access to medical marijuana that they deserve," Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement shortly after the bill's signing. "Regulating medical marijuana sales will also generate revenue and take a bite out of the state's underground marijuana market."

Nevada becomes 14th state to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries, and it's one of 19 states and the District of Columbia with medical marijuana laws, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures. Illinois lawmakers passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana this year that is awaiting the governor's final decision.

Lawmakers crafted the legislation largely after the Arizona model. In fact, several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee travelled to Arizona during the session to get a better sense of what Nevada's law should look like.

The product will be taxed at the growing, processing and selling stages. The revenue created will first fund the regulation of the dispensaries with any remaining revenue being funneled to education. Hefty application fees are also expected to help defray some of the costs.

That group was led by the committee chairman, Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who was also the bill's primary sponsor. Also in attendance was Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, who ended up being the deciding vote in the bill passing the Assembly.

Because of the tax components, supporters needed a two-thirds majority to approve the bill. With Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, championing the effort in the Senate that was not a problem, but Assembly Republicans had no appetite for the bill — and without at least one voting for it, it would have failed.

But Fiore, a freshman legislator, sided with the Democrat majority to propel the dispensaries to Sandoval's desk. She told the Associated Press at the time that she swung the vote because her allegiance to the state constitution — which mandates a distribution system for medicinal marijuana — was her top priority.

Republican Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said during the floor debate that the law would benefit the Silver State economically, but he feared society would decline because the availability of the drug would lead to misuses.

Other Republicans objected on federal grounds, because marijuana — whether used medicinally or recreationally — is illegal under federal law. State lawmakers had an obligation to uphold the U.S. Constitution before state laws, they argued in hearings and during the floor debate.

Federal authorities would have legal grounds to intervene, but that has not happened in other states with operating medical pot dispensaries.

Dispensaries in the Silver State would open fully aware of potential federal prosecution, Hutchison said.

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  1. You have a question of State's laws, what is good for the local people, and Federal/National law, what is good for the country as a whole.

    For years, National government has been frozen and dysfunctional due to political gridlock, so bad that the nation's budget has not been delivered on time, and has been subjected to "poison pill" politics. It is shameful and a national disgrace. Virtually nothing gets done, and very needed reform doesn't happen unless there is a gigantic national crisis. Marijuana should have never been made illegal to begin with (politically motivated), and now it will take an act of Congress to put it in legal standing, to decriminalize it, regulate it, and tax it. This is the next step, and it is understandable, that Republicans are hesitant to move forward with marijuana legislation in the states, given the irrational behaviors and obstructionalism they pose on a national level of governance. But moving forward is the next right step.

    It can and will happen. Too many People suffer in our state and country to not act in their favor, for once. Chronic pain is terrible, life-changing, and places its victims into desperate choices for relief.

    Nothing is mentioned about the Taxation Department snafu, but one can suspect, there are a few who have agendas that push from the inside, and they attempted to pull a fast one the very last minute, circumventing the legislative process and transparency. Why didn't they do their due diligence while the legislative session was going through the process?

    So, thank you Governor Sandoval, for seeing the line of reason, and the hope that government will eventually come together and work together, without all the personalities running the show. This was a good call,and a good save.

    Blessings and Peace,

  2. Thanks for the early morning humor. The irony of House Republicans suddenly becoming admirers of the Federal government and laws impinging on states rights and worrying about Nevada society declining because of marijuana availability made up for waking to the stupid puppy chewing up books.

  3. I think legalizing marijuana, gay marriage, and prostitution in the state of Nevada will lead to more taxable economies. In regard to marijuana and prostitution legalization in this state, it would also take the seediness away from those sectors and allow for it to be monitored by the law as well as taxed.

    Gay marriage would skyrocket the economy of love in this state even further.

    Let's keep working on intelligent change.

  4. I applaud Michele Fiore for acting sensibly and for the citizens of the state of Nevada. Other Republicans should take notice.

  5. Ironic that the major problem with this policy was that Nevada Republicans insisted that we obey federal law while at the same time they object to anything federal in the last 5 years. Pick and choose, no consistency in their philosophy.

  6. Assemblywoman Fiore did the right thing for the people of this state and she should be commended for doing so.