Some of Nevada’s local governments say they won’t approve marijuana farms or dispensaries because doing so would violate federal law, state officials were warned Thursday.
But Marla McDade Williams, deputy administrator of the division setting up the system, said they don’t have a choice.
“We believe the bill requires every county to authorize at least one,” she said, adding that a license applicant likely would have to sue to force the issue.
The discussion came amid consideration of whether to provide Behavioral Health the $246,205 needed to for adequate staffing to ensure the system is ready by April. And it came on the day the Obama administration announced that it won’t challenge state laws allowing the use of medical marijuana, such as Nevada’s.
Williams told the Interim Finance Committee she expects the labs charged with testing medical marijuana will be licensed first, followed by the growers and, finally, the dispensaries where medical marijuana cardholders can purchase the drug.
She assured the committee the rules will largely come from existing systems used in other states.
“We’re not going to home-grow anything here because it’s just too complicated to do that,” she said, eliciting groans from the committee.
The market should determine how many cultivator licenses will be allowed, Williams said, adding that it depends on how many medical marijuana cardholders there are.
There are about 4,300 cardholders, but that the number is “growing by 80 to 100 a week,” she said.
Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, asked whether prescriptions for marijuana will have to be signed by a person’s primary medical provider. Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, said any medical professional licensed to write prescriptions in Nevada should be able to do it.
“A number of us have been through cancer treatments and if my oncologist issues a prescription, I think that should be honored,” she said.
Williams said the deadlines for developing regulations and setting up the system to legally provide marijuana are tight, but that she thinks they can be ready by April.
The committee approved funding to hire staffers for the program as well as about $500,000 for the Department of Taxation to implement the 2 percent excise tax imposed on the sale of pot to dispensaries, then imposed again when the drug is sold to the patients.