Las Vegas Sun

September 25, 2018

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Commissioner: Pot businesses must not neglect medical-card holders

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John Locher / AP

People wait in line at the Essence cannabis dispensary in Las Vegas, Saturday, July 1, 2017, as recreational sales of marijuana begin.

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Clark County Commissioner Susan Brager

All marijuana businesses operating in Clark County will have to obtain both medical and recreational licenses if a Clark County commissioner has her way.

Speaking at Tuesday’s commission meeting, Commissioner Susan Brager proposed an ordinance to outlaw businesses from being licensed only for recreational sales, use and production of the plant without offering the same options for medical marijuana users. The ordinance will be formally heard on April 3.

“People were all about medical when they first came here, and now all of a sudden people want to separate the two,” Brager said. “We need to be consistent in keeping marijuana for what we intended in the first place.”

Nevada in the 2016 election voted to legalize the possession and use of up to one ounce of marijuana flower or up to one-eighth the THC equivalent of marijuana edibles and concentrates — such as wax, shatter and carbon dioxide oil — for adults age 21 and over. The Nevada Legislature paved the way for recreational pot sales to begin last July.

The recreational model was an instant cash cow for weed businesses and state coffers, drawing $27 million in sales and bringing in $3.6 in new tax revenue in its first month. Recreational pot has since grossed $228 million in sales and $35.9 million in tax revenue through Jan. 31. It essentially replaced medical marijuana, many of whose 26,000 state card-holding patients let their annual $100 cards expire in favor of the convenience and anonymity of buying pot recreationally.

Brager said allowing pot companies to obtain recreational licenses without also being required to sell the plant to medical patients would leave “those most in need in the dark.” About 21,500 Nevadans still have medical marijuana cards.

“I think it’s very important they honor what we originally brought marijuana here for,” Brager said. “You can’t just go open a recreational shop without medical and I want to keep it that way.”

Fellow Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani expressed skepticism with Brager’s proposed ordinance Tuesday, arguing medical patients can easily buy the same products anonymously under the recreational model without the bureaucracy of applying for a state medical card. Forcing business owners to bear the added costs of a medical license could discourage participation in Nevada’s pot industry, she said.

“Honestly, I don’t really know why you need the medical component,” Giunchigliani said. “But we’ll have to hear next week’s discussion before we make a decision.”