The legislative Interim Finance Committee on Thursday approved $365,309 in spending to continue staffing up the new medical marijuana program.
Five people will be added in administrative roles, joining seven inspectors and technical hires approved in December’s IFC.
Program manager Marla McDade Williams told lawmakers that will provide the staff needed to process applications and operate the program, which is designed to make marijuana available to those with medical cards when the application process begins next fall. Hiring for those first technical positions, she said, has been delayed because her staff and state personnel officials are having to create job descriptions for posts such as marijuana farm inspectors.
All of the program is being paid for by a general fund advance that Williams said will be repaid once fees and other revenues start coming in from applicants.
She said the goal is to pay the general fund back by Aug. 31. Without the advance money, the state wouldn’t be able to operate the program and generate the revenue that will be repaid.
Thursday’s action increases total general fund borrowing thus far to about $600,000, she said.
“If the positions are not funded, we are compromising our ability to review the applications within 90 days as the statute requires,” she said.
If they can’t meet that deadline, the law says the applications are automatically approved.
Some lawmakers asking about counties that have indicated they may prohibit having marijuana dispensaries within their borders were surprised when Williams said cardholders with approved medical conditions could still grow their own. They can grow up to 12 plants if there isn’t a dispensary within 25 miles, she said.
”Nye county could have growers everywhere,” said Assemblyman Cresent Hardy, R-Mesquite.
He added that Mesquite is 80 miles from Las Vegas and could also have cardholders growing pot in town.