Thursday, April 11, 2013

High Times: SB 374 Passes Committee, Moves to Full Senate

Last month, a road trip to Arizona, a bunch of crude jokes, and sensational media coverage helped bring attention to the serious issue of medical marijuana. Oh yes, and it also helped that the ACLU filed a law suit against the state over Nevada's convoluted marijuana laws. While Nevada voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 2000, subsequent efforts to clarify the law only resulted in more confusion... And more police arrests of patients trying to access the medicine they need.

This is why Senator Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) introduced SB 374 this session. And this may be why SB 374 received its first signal of approval today in the Nevada Legislature.

Sen. Mark Hutchinson, R-Las Vegas, said the initial fee for licensing a clinic will be $20,000 with an annual renewal of $5,000. The fees would give the state Health Division money to regulate dispensaries, and any excess would go to aid to public schools, he said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee today endorsed the bill, which would permit 40 dispensaries in Clark County and fewer in other counties.

Under the bill a lottery will be set up if applications exceed the limit. Nevada companies would receive preference.

Hutchinson said Senate Bill 374 establishes a system of “tight controls” to track the marijuana from seed to sale.

Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, said there was a “disconnect” between the federal law that prohibits the sale of marijuana and the proposed state law. But he called allowing dispensaries the “next logical step” in carrying out Nevada’s constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana.

Committee Chairman Sen. Tick Segerblom, sponsor of the bill, said he has seen press reports that the governor would be open to considering the measure, which now goes to the full Senate.

Ultimately, it was amended. The license fee was raised from $5,000 to $20,000. And for-profit companies will be allowed to run dispensaries. (The original language only allowed for non-profit organizations to run dispensaries.)

But at least now, SB 374 has cleared its first hurdle. And not only that, but it did so with flying colors. SB 374 passed unanimously in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It now moves onto the full Senate.

And from there, its prospects are actually quite bright. So far, we've yet to see major signs of resistance in the Assembly. And even Governor Brian Sandoval (R) has signaled willingness to sign this into law.

So can Nevada finally fix this messy and embarrassing medical marijuana problem? We shall see. But so far, it's looking like high times.

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