State will be late on medical marijuana
December 27, 2013
The state will miss the Legislature's April 1 deadline to begin accepting applications from medical marijuana providers and growers.
"We may have staff on board April 1, but we're looking to the summer before was can open requests for applications," said Marla McDade Williams, who is managing the program for the Health Division.
First, the regulations must be approved. After the division writes the rules, Williams said, they must be approved by the state Board of Health — hopefully in March.
Then they go to the Legislative Counsel Bureau for review, back to the division for revision and then, finally, to the Legislative Commission for approval.
Once the regulations are approved, Williams said, there is a 30-day window in which applicants put in their paperwork to become a cultivator; manufacturer of marijuana-based products such as edibles; testing lab; or dispensary. There is a 90-day period after that to review those applications.
She said she doubts the state will be licensing the facilities intended to provide patients with medical marijuana until September or October.
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Williams also said that despite the language in the statute giving the state the power to put a dispensary in each county, it's not likely the Health Division would override a local government.
"If they don't want it, we won't make them," she said. "If the local government doesn't approve it, I think we have to deny the application."
She made the comments before a Monday hearing to review the proposed regulations that will implement Senate Bill 374. Nearly 40 people attended the hearing in Carson City, and an additional 40-50 watched from Las Vegas.
Several lawyers representing potential applicants said some of the proposed regulations would be difficult to deal with.
"It's almost as if your piling red tape on red tape here," said Patrick McDonnell of the law firm Rainey & Devine.
The audit requirements are particularly onerous, he said — especially the full accredited audit every year, which he said could cost businesses $25,000-$50,000.
"It's as if you're planning to audit the businesses to death," he said.
There also were concerns about the provision that would require a licensee to surrender that license anytime a new owner bought a piece of the business, as well as the proposed rule requiring doctors who prescribe marijuana products to report to the state the number patients served, their conditions and other details. If a doctor was issuing an unreasonably high number of prescriptions, that could be reported to the state's board of medicine.
Vicky Higgins of Las Vegas said that requirement would deter many medical doctors from prescribing marijuana.
"We are penalizing the doctors who are helping us," she said.
Williams said the division would review the various suggested amendments and, hopefully, issue revised regulations soon.