Las Vegas Sun

September 18, 2019

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Unfilled state regulatory jobs could delay medical marijuana openings in Las Vegas

Tick Segerblom

David Zalubowski / AP

In this photo taken Saturday, April 25, 2015, Nevada Sen. Tick Segerblom and Ronald Dreher, government affairs director for Peace Officers Research Association of Nevada, pass by an area with marijuana plants under cultivation as Nevada lawmakers, their staffers and lobbyists toured two retail and grow operations for medical and recreational marijuana in northeast Denver.

Dozens of medical marijuana businesses in Las Vegas could face delays in their opening dates. The state isn’t rethinking the law that legalized the growth and sale of cannabis for patients’ use. Rather, it’s having trouble filling bureaucratic posts responsible for signing off on the dispensaries' compliance with that law.

After two recent employee departures, there are currently no inspectors based in Southern Nevada. In the meantime, one based in Northern Nevada has been traveling south when needed. The state is currently working to fill those vacancies.

Members of the medical marijuana industry are raising concerns about the turnover.

"Any new inspectors the state hires will need some time to come up to speed and learn about these facilities and regulations," said Amanda Connor, an attorney with several medical marijuana clients. "It might create a backlog or delay in the licensing and the facilities would have to wait to open."

With the industry blooming after months of delays, more than a dozen dispensaries and growing and production facilities are expected to open in Las Vegas before the end of the year.

The state plans to fill one of the inspector positions within the next week and the other within the month, said Steve Gilbert, a state medical marijuana program manager.

"We're trying to get someone with an inspection background, maybe in environmental health regulations," he said.

Gilbert couldn't discuss why the previous inspectors quit, citing state privacy laws, but said he was confident the turnover wouldn't impact the industry’s rollout.

The job requires inspectors to check compliance with the 20,000-word statute legalizing medical marijuana that lays out health, production and operational standards.

In other words, the marijuana inspector won’t be a marijuana reviewer. "The (job) is to look at the health aspects like cleanliness and the use of pesticides," Gilbert said.

In addition to the inspectors, the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health, which oversees the industry, has hired three auditors to monitor the financials of the businesses from seed to sale and to ensure industry members are paying state fees.

"Right now we're in startup mode," said division spokeswoman Pam Graber. "When everybody's up and running we'll have a better idea what kinds of needs (the industry has) and how to staff accordingly."

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