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Senator lays out plan to authorize medical marijuana dispensaries

Updated Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 | 11:46 a.m.

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Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, passes an aide in his office. In the background is a poster from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

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Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, wants Nevada to authorize medical marijuana dispensaries.

The dispensaries would provide an easy avenue for the approximately 3,600 current medical marijuana permit holders to purchase medical marijuana in a transparent and legal manner, he said.

“We’re going to have places you can go with a card where you can legally purchase marijuana,” Segerblom said. “It’ll be a for-profit. It won’t be a co-op. It won’t be run by the government … It’ll be taxed and the revenue will be used to do something good. Those are the details we haven’t gotten to yet.”

His bill would strictly regulate for-profit dispensaries and would instruct the Gaming Control Board to regulate dispensaries as strictly as they monitor casino cages.

The senator announced his proposal after a two-hour Senate Judiciary hearing during which senators learned about the legal ambiguity surrounding the state’s constitutional provision allowing for medical marijuana.

The state’s current marijuana laws are winding their way through the state’s legal system, and the Nevada Supreme Court is considering the law in an ongoing case.

“Let’s go back and do what we should have done 10 years ago,” Segerblom said. “It’s something that it’s time has come. Colorado has it. Arizona has it. California has it. Oregon has it. Washington State has it. We’re surrounded by it.”

Segerblom said his proposal would borrow practices from Colorado, which passed a dispensary law before its voters passed an initiative legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in November.

In Colorado, cities and counties can choose whether or not to have “grow houses” -- places where marijuana is cultivated -- and dispensaries within their jurisdictions, said Carmen Hansen with the National Conference of State Legislatures, which is based in Denver.

Dispensaries in Nevada would solve the ambiguous situation in which many medical marijuana permit holders now find themselves, Segerblom said.

The Clark County Public Defender and a representative from the law firm Turco & Draskovich, which is representing clients in the pending state Supreme Court case, told legislators that permit holders are unsure if their attempts to legally obtain marijuana fall into the realm of illegal activity.

“It puts people in an absurd position where people have this right but no realistic way to really exercise it,” said Steve Yeager, Office of the Public Defender, Clark County.

Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, noted that fixing the confusion in state law may not help.

“There remains a problem, under federal law, the possession of any amount of marijuana for any purpose, is still illegal,” he said.

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