Thirteen years after Nevada voters approved use of medical marijuana, state lawmakers passed a bill out of committee on Thursday to provide a way for patients to finally get the drug.
The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 374 that calls for the establishment and regulation of pot dispensaries in the Silver State.
The facilities would be allowed to sell marijuana and package the drug into edible items such as brownies.
The vote came after Republicans on the Senate panel emphasized the need to enforce the law established by the statewide vote in 2000 that generally was not supported by GOP members.
The bill will head to the Senate Finance Committee to sort out cost issues involving the program. Proposed fees mean the bill would require a two-thirds vote of approval from the full Senate and Assembly.
Last month, Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, the bill’s primary sponsor, took members of the committee to Arizona to review how medical marijuana dispensaries are handled there. The committee returned with several proposed changes to the bill, among them allowing the dispensaries to be for-profit entities.
The amendment also specifies there would be a maximum of 10 dispensaries in Clark County, three in Washoe County and one in every other county.
If the bill becomes law, applicants would pay $5,000 to enter a lottery for one of the licenses. If selected, an applicant would pay a $20,000 license issuance fee and $5,000 to renew the license each year.
Cultivating marijuana and selling edible products would require additional fees of $3,000 and $2,000, respectively.
The proceeds would be used to fund the regulation of the program and the balance would go to a discretionary education spending account, Segerblom said.
Only registered medical marijuana patients or their caregivers would be able to purchase the drug. The bill says forging a medical marijuana registration card is punishable by up to four years in prison.
To be eligible for a card, a person needs a pot prescription from a doctor treating a serious medical condition such as AIDS, cancer or glaucoma. A patient also must pay a $50 application fee to the state.
Currently, there are about 3,400 card holders in Nevada. Segerblom expects that number to increase to about 10,000 if dispensaries are established.
In a prior interview, Segerblom told The Associated Press the bill does not have an adverse political stigma as previous efforts experienced.
Federal law prohibits the use of medical marijuana, but Segerblom does not believe President Barack Obama would intervene with the dispensaries.