Las Vegas Sun

August 21, 2019

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County puts moratorium on new recreational marijuana dispensaries

Green Life Productions

Steve Marcus

Marijuana plants are shown during a tour of the Green Life Productions grow facility in Las Vegas Thursday, April 19, 2018.

Recreational-only pot dispensaries approved by the Nevada Department of Taxation won’t open anytime soon in Clark County after commissioners today delayed licensing over concerns that the needs of medical marijuana patients are being ignored.

The unanimous vote, which surprised many of the nine business owners with pending licenses, delays county licensing indefinitely. Commissioners argued medical patients were being left out of the booming marijuana industry.

“Medical needs to be a component of it,” Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick said. “I think we need to spell out what the community benefit is of it.”

Existing dispensaries serve both recreational and medical users, who receive a 10 percent discount on sales and can buy specified medicinal products.

Commissioner Susan Brager, in her last meeting today after serving 12 years on the Commission, accused marijuana store operators of ignoring the medical aspect of the business.

In a fiery 90-second statement, she chastised dispensary owners for preaching the importance of protecting the medical industry during the campaign for legal recreational pot, then selling their businesses for millions of dollars. Multiple dispensary chains in the Las Vegas Valley have sold for more than $50 million over the last six months.

“I’m not against making money, but it needs to be productive for the community as a whole,” she said.

Among those in opposition to today’s vote was Thrive Dispensary representative David Praud, who argued the moratorium would make a 12-month state opening deadline for dispensary licensees difficult to honor.

“It will put us in a bad spot,” Praud said. “We’re at risk of losing that developmental license if there’s a delay.”

Kirkpatrick, Brager and outgoing Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani also argued that pot stores should be required to be actively involved with local charity organizations, though fellow Commissioner and Gov.-elect Steve Sisolak said there’s no legal way to mandate a business’ involvement in community service if it’s operating within the law.

While the moratorium is indefinite, three new county commissioners will be seated for the next meeting on Jan. 7, including pro-pot former state lawmakers Tick Segerblom and Justin Jones. Sisolak has not yet appointed his successor.