Nevada State Senator Tick Segerblom (D-NV) has sponsored Senate Bill 374 which proposes major changes to Nevada’s medical marijuana law. Foremost among the changes proposed by Senate Bill 374 is that Nevada medical marijuana patients will finally be provided with a means to legally acquire their marijuana. Specifically, the bill provides for state licensed and regulated medical marijuana dispensaries. At present, the bill would allow for counties with residents greater than 700,000 permits for forty dispensaries. As written the bill would require significant investment on behalf of applicants wishing to open a medical marijuana dispensary. The proposed legislation would also change the way employers are allowed to treat medical marijuana patients.

Proposed Requirements for Applicants Wishing to Open Marijuana Dispensaries

An interesting proposal contained within Senate Bill 374 is that Nevada will allow for “for profit” dispensaries. Additionally anybody wishing to open a medical marijuana dispensary or growing operation (loosely defined as a “marijuana establishment” in the bill) will first have to pass a rigorous background check for each officer and employee, show that they are in possession of at least $150,000.00 in liquid assets, show that they either own or have permission from the owner of the property to conduct the business, among other requirements. On top of the background checks, applicants wishing to open a marijuana establishment must pay hefty fees including a $20,000.00 initial licensing fee and a $5,000.00 renewal fee. Establishments wishing to cultivate marijuana will have to pay a $5,000.00 initial licensing fee and a $1,000.00 renewal fee. Establishments wishing to prepare edible products will have to pay a $2,000.00 initial licensing fee and a $750.00 renewal fee. In addition to each of the above fees, EVERY applicant will have to pay a one time, non refundable application fee of $5,000.00.

Medical Marijuana Facilities Will be Heavily Regulated 

In addition to the strenuous background checks and the hefty application and licensing fees, the facilities will be subject to strict regulations. Each person working or volunteering at a medical marijuana facility will be required to undergo a strict background check to ensure that they are not a person banned from participating in such a facility (generally people with past convictions for certain crimes). Additionally the facilities must have a single secure entrance, all marijuana must be kept in locked facilities with 24 hour surveillance. Each medical marijuana facility must keep strict records of all the marijuana that is bought, sold or cultivated on its premises. All such records must be stored electronically and the inventory control system must be established under consultation of the Health and Human Services Division of the State of Nevada.  All the marijuana sold on the premises must be clearly an accurately labeled listing the THC content, weight and concentration. Any edible products must be clearly labeled and packaged in a manner that is unappealing to children.

Nevada Will Recognize Out of State Patients

As written the bill will allow for out of state patients to purchase use and possess marijuana from medical marijuana establishments. This has been a huge issue in Nevada where patients from neighboring states, such as California, have faced prosecution in Nevada for possession of their medicine.

Patients Will Be Allowed to Possess Greater Amounts of Marijuana

At present medical marijuana patients are allowed to possess up to one once of usable marijuana, three mature plants and four immature plants. However, Senate Bill 374 will up that amount to twelve plants, regardless of their maturity, and two and one half ounces of usable marijuana. This is a big improvement over the prior law which often did not provide for enough usable marijuana and contained ambiguities such as what constituted a “mature” plant versus an “immature” plant.

Homegrown Marijuana will No Longer be Permitted Under Most Circumstances

One unfortunate addition to the bill is that it will prohibit patients from growing their own marijuana  in most circumstances once a dispensary begins operation in the county in which they reside. This proposed language in the statute will rob patients who wish to remain anonymous from producing their own medicine within the confines of their own home. It will force patients out of the home and into the marketplace and robs them of their freedom of choice to produce their own marijuana in a safe and controlled environment.

The Pros and Cons of the Senate Bill 374

Clearly Senate Bill 374 is an improvement on the present situation in Nevada. Allowing patients a legal means to acquire their marijuana is finally giving power to the will the voters expressed when they amended the Constitution of the State of Nevada nearly thirteen years ago. Progress such as allowing out of state patients, for profit dispensaries and increased maximum amounts show that Nevada is on the forefront of medical marijuana tolerance. However, the bill does fall short in several key areas such as, hefty licensing fees, limitations on the numbers of licenses and extensive regulations that are as of yet clearly defined. In my opinion the biggest flaw in the proposed bill is the practical removal of patients ability to grow their own marijuana as soon as a dispensary opens in their county. This regulation robs patients of their anonymity and takes away their ability to produce their medicine in the privacy of their own home. I suggest contacting your state representatives and voice your support for the bill yet urge them to withdraw the restriction on home cultivation.