A bill that would allow Nevada medical marijuana patients to access the medicine passed the Senate on Wednesday, with even a majority of Republicans backing it.
The vote was 17-4, with Barbara Cegavske of Las Vegas, Dr. Joe Hardy of Boulder City, Don Gustavson of Sparks and James Settelmeyer of Gardnerville opposed.
The bill would impose fees and requirements for growers, processors and dispensaries. Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, was the prime sponsor.
“A lot of work went into this bill and we, finally, after 12 years, are doing what the voters told us to,” he said.
This year Segerblom took members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a field trip to Phoenix to see how Arizona regulates medical marijuana dispensaries. Arizona voters approved medical marijuana in 2010, and about 30,000 people there have medical marijuana cards. In Nevada, that number is about 3,400.
Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, made the primary argument for Senate Bill 374. He told fellow members that regardless of what they personally think about providing medical marijuana to certain patients, voters approved the program. He also stated that lawmakers “shall provide by law” for a system that allows patients with a valid medical card to get marijuana.
“The Legislature has never done this,” he said.
Hutchison said lawmakers need to provide an appropriate access system to “recognize the constitutional right of Nevadans to access medical marijuana.”
He said the bill patterned after the Arizona system of dispensaries will provide the drug safely, security and legally, “regardless of how we feel personally about the use of medical marijuana.”
Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, and Greg Brower, R-Reno, both said they would support the bill.
Brower, a former U.S. attorney, said that like Hutchison, the question boils down to a constitutional issue for him.
Hardy, a physician, said he thinks the legal marijuana substitute Marinol is an adequate answer for those whose medical conditions qualify them for a marijuana card, so he would vote no.
“And, by the way, smoking is bad for you,” he added.
The measure goes to the Assembly, where Segerblom said he hopes to amend the bill to grandfather in those who have, under current law, been growing their own marijuana — a practice eliminated by the measure creating dispensaries.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.