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August 21, 2014

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Nevada agency releases draft of medical marijuana regulations, which prompt more questions

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Kevin Clifford / AP

Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, works in committee at the Legislative Building in Carson City, Nev., on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. A bill creating a network to provide medical marijuana patients a legal way to obtain the drug was approved by the Nevada Senate on Wednesday, May, 29, 2013. SB374, pushed by Sen. Tick Segerblom sets out a regulatory framework to create medical marijuana dispensaries more than a decade after voters approved medical marijuana.

Even as the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health released its 80-page draft of regulations for the state's medical marijuana law Friday, it has been met with many questions.

Nevada voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 1998, but there has been much debate about the constitutionality of the established system. So the 2013 Nevada Legislature adopted Senate Bill 374, which sets up a system for growing, testing and dispensing marijuana to patients who have prescriptions from doctors. The law is scheduled to take effect in April.

The state will set broad guidelines for growers, dispensaries and test labs, and municipalities are responsible for setting their own licensing and zoning policies.

Scores of people have called or visited state offices in Carson City to voice their concerns and pose questions about the regulations.

Sen. Tick Segerblom. D-Las Vegas, sponsored SB374 and said he was happy to see so much interest.

“This is a big thing,” he said.

In recent public hearings, there were several questions about limiting the number of people who cultivate the drug for sales. Division of Public and Behavioral Health Deputy Director Marla Dade Williams said her department is developing a formula to restrict the number. But some speakers said there should be a “free market” approach.

Some people questioned whether the marijuana could only be grown indoors or if outdoor growth would be permitted.

Also suggested were tighter standards for testing because some marijuana may contain pesticides that pose health hazards.

Some commenters suggested Nevadans be given preference for obtaining the licenses for growers, testing labs and dispensaries. But a state official opposed that plan, saying others may have experience that would be invaluable to the Nevada system.

Officials said the idea of preference for Nevadans was in a draft of the bill that was deleted in the Legislature.

The public also voiced concerns about the costs of licenses and the fear that consumers could not afford the final price of medical marijuana.

The bill allows up to 40 clinics in Las Vegas, 20 in Washoe County, two in Carson City and one each in rural counties. And although several people questioned where the grow facilities could be placed, Williams said it was up to local governments to decide if they want to restrict locations.

More public hearings are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, and Williams said a final draft of the regulations should be ready later this year.

“I believe we are on track to meet (the) April 1 (start date)," she said.

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