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What Is Stalling The Medical Pot Industry In Clark County?

It’s been 15 years since Nevada legalized medical marijuana, and it’s been 15 months since Clark County approved medical pot dispensaries, distributors and cultivators.

Yet just one medical pot dispensary operates in Nevada. It’s in the Reno suburb of Sparks.

How can a city of 90,000 open a medical pot business but Clark County, with some two million people, cannot?

An attorney for one dispensary, Euphoria Wellness, blamed Clark County regulations for the stalled process, saying the county is being too strict in its interpretation of state laws and that it won't allow dispensaries to open because certified marijuana growers aren't ready.

County Commissioner Steve Sisolak took issue with that characterization. 

“There’s not too many laws" Sisolak said, "There’s not too many regulations. There’s just a greater expense than people has initially realized.” 

The commissioner said it can take months and millions of dollars to retrofit a warehouse, secure a water supply and provide power to grow marijuana plants.

“No one has ever grown this much marijuana in the middle of the desert in a warehouse,” Sisolak said.

Sisolak said the county issued several licenses for cultivation of the product, but many of those growers didn't realize how much money, time and energy it was going to take to get the operations going.

“The cultivation, for one reason or another, even though we licensed two and half times as many of them, were a little slower getting going," the commissioner said. "It is a significant capital expenditure to get into the cultivation business.”

He said many people who wanted to get into the medical marijuana business decided not to get into cultivation, including Euphoria Wellness, which he says has a license to cultivate but decided not to do that part of the business.

State Sen. Patricia Farley agrees with Sisolak and said the slowness of the industry has less to do with regulations than with money.

“I think that people underestimated the amount of money, the amount of infrastructure, the time to get that infrastructure in place and then to start producing,” Farley said.

She also pointed out that it is a new business and getting a new business off the ground can take a lot of money and effort.

“The business community needs to get this together and get it moving,” the state senator said.

Sisolak said the reason a dispensary in Sparks was able to open was because it chose to buy marijuana from a medical marijuana card holder, who are allowed to have 2.5 usable ounces of the drug or 12 plants, at what ever stage.  

Dispensaries are allowed to get either one of those from the card holder, but for whatever reason, no one in Southern Nevada has done that.

The drug cannot be brought in from California because taking it across state lines is a violation of federal law.

Steve Sisolak, commissioner, Clark County; State Sen. Patricia Farley, R-Las Vegas

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.