Medical pot questions answered at workshop

Potential marijuana growers, dispensary operators and testing labs brought a long list of concerns and suggestions to a pair of hearings about proposed medical marijuana regulations Friday.

The hearings, one for laboratory operators and one for cultivators — growers — were conducted by deputy health division administrator Marla Williams. She made clear that the purpose was to get input on what should be in the regulations that will run the system designed to provide legal pot products to those with medical marijuana cards. She said no decisions would be made Friday.

It was quickly clear in the morning hearing that most of those commenting by telephone or from Las Vegas were operators of existing medical and other testing labs looking at possibly expanding into the marijuana-testing business.

When it came to potential growers, a wide variety of questions was raised, including how many growers will be licensed and how many plants each will be allowed to have at any one time.

An Arizona participant pointed out that growers should be licensed first so they can have some “product” ready when the first dispensaries open. Arizona and Colorado provided the models for the Nevada dispensary law approved by the 2013 Legislature.

Williams said the law requires the division to set the number of cultivators as well as the number of labs, but that those decisions would be made to ensure there is enough supply to meet the need of Nevada’s cardholders.

Shane Johnson of Washoe County testified that limiting the total number of plants a cultivator can have to 99 — one plant less than the point at which federal legal penalties dramatically increase — would not be economically viable for growers.

One of the problems was that the proposed regulations, fully 79 pages long, weren’t released to the public until the morning of the hearings.

Numerous questions that were raised were actually answered in those regulations, including whether there would be testing for pesticides, solvents and other contaminants or just for the quality of the marijuana itself. The proposed rules specifically require testing for contaminants of all types.

Questions also were raised by participants, including Ed Alexander, about whether a pot farm could be in a greenhouse or outdoors instead of just “an enclosed facility.”

Participants asked whether someone could operate both a grow facility and a dispensary with just one license. There also were questions about security requirements when it comes to transporting the drugs.

Several who testified agreed there must be thorough testing to ensure quality and purity of the pot sold under the state program, but they said they were concerned that too extensive a set of requirements could seriously drive up the price beyond what many cardholders can afford.

“We’ve got a ways to go, but your comments today are very helpful,” Williams told those participating in the hearing.

She said there will be at least three more hearings — then a 15-day notice before the regulations are finalized at a workshop. They must then be sent to the Legislative Counsel Bureau for review. LCB has 30 days to do that. Then there is another 30-day notice before a public workshop to adopt the amended regulations.

Williams said that ensures that all participants have ample time to study and comment.

She said that hopefully, the regulations will be in place and applications can start coming in around mid-November.


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