Furlong: No issue with new pot law
September 5, 2013
Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong has no problem with cancer patients and others being prescribed medical marijuana as part of their treatment, he said Tuesday.
He added that his understanding of a new Nevada law is that even if he and other Carson City officials disagree with it, they don't have the option of denying all licenses for a dispensary.
The law approved by the 2013 Legislature sets out how many dispensaries are permitted in each county. For Carson City, it's one. It also sets out how pot growers will be licensed in Nevada in an attempt to meet the mandate approved by voters a dozen years ago to legalize the use and possession of medical marijuana.
Until this past legislative session, however, there was no system in place to help those with a medical marijuana card and prescription from a doctor to actually get the drug. They were on their own dealing with the black market.
At last week's Interim Finance Committee meeting, Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, questioned whether all counties will adhere to the new law, saying some local officials in his rural district told him they simply won't allow pot farms or dispensaries.
It was at that point that Marla McDade Williams, deputy health administrator managing the medical marijuana program, said she has been advised the law doesn't give counties the option of refusing to license dispensaries. She said the issue was out of their hands.
Furlong said that's his understanding as well.
"As of my last briefing, a county could not skirt the issue," he said.
But Furlong said that doesn't mean a county has to approve any dispensary operation that applies for a business license. Carson officials can set and enforce standards for licensing, he said.
"What the Legislature approved is medical use, and I don't think there is a hue and cry over doctors treating patients," he said. "I'm not at all opposed to a legitimate doctor providing a legitimate prescription for the legitimate treatment of a medical problem."
But Furlong said he is concerned that too many people are confusing the legislatively approved program with illegal drug use.
"What's going on does not change anything for law enforcement," he said. "If you're walking through Mills Park smoking a joint, you're going to be talking to one of my guys."
He also said it's far too early to make judgments about how well the new law will work. He said the state is just beginning the process of working out regulations and that right now, "those details haven't been established."
"It's all in how you're going to control those facilities," Furlong said.
The law takes effect in April. Between now and then, Furlong said, he and other Carson City officials will keep a close eye on the regulations so they are ready when the first license applications come.