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July 30, 2014

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Nevadans might not get their medical marijuana until well after law kicks in

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Steve Marcus

Medical marijuana is shown in a home in this 2010 file photo.

State legislators are worried that the start of the new medical marijuana law could be delayed, and they fear the state will have problems collecting taxes on the sales.

Assembly Speaker William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said he was concerned that patients won’t be able to fill their prescriptions until summer 2014 even though the law takes effect April 1.

Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said some of the banks would not accept credit card transactions in the payment of drugs. He said the cash payments may lead to hiding the revenue.

After lawmakers voiced their concerns, the Legislative Interim Finance Committee today approved the application of the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health to use $246,000 to hire employees to start working on the new program for dispensaries to sell the drug.

Marla McDade Williams, deputy director of the agency, told the committee it will write the regulations but that the licensing, on the advice of the state Attorney General’s Office, could not start until after April 1.

Horne said it takes three to four months to grow a marijuana crop, which means patients won’t be able to buy the drug until summertime.

The finance committee also approved $520,000 for the state Department of Taxation to begin a process for collection of the 2 percent tax on the wholesale and retail sales.

Hickey said that some of the banks won’t accept credit card payments for the purchase of the marijuana and that they could hide the cash.

Chris Nielsen, director of the taxation department, said there are other ways for his agents to detect the sales to collect the right amount of revenue owed the state.

He said this happened in the past involving mom and pop restaurants that would only accept cash payments to “cook the books.”

But state agents were able to find the sales data. And he said this is a violation of both state and federal law on tax payments.

Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said some rural counties don’t intend to license these marijuana dispensaries because it may violate federal law.

Williams said the law requires each county to have a dispensary. If a county refuses a license, then the business applicant could sue.

Williams said 4,300 Nevadans already have medical marijuana prescription cards.

Hickey suggested that only a family physician will be able to write a prescription. But Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, said any licensed physician should be able to approve a marijuana prescription.

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