Las Vegas Opens Door For Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

| by Allison Geller

The first medical marijuana dispensaries have been set up in Las Vegas after the city just decided to legalize them.

With a six-month moratorium on dispensaries having expired in Monday, Las Vegas City Council members voted 5-2 Wednesday to set regulations for dispensariesWhile Nevada voters approved medical marijuana in 2000, there was formerly no legal way to cultivate or obtain it. State lawmakers set up a framework for distribution, but cities and counties like Las Vegas were allowed to block the measure by imposing moratoriums.

One councilman, Ricki Barlow, initially opposed the measure but had a change of heart when he saw how dispensaries operated in Arizona and California.

“In the beginning I had a completely different interpretation and level of understanding as to what we’re dealing with here,” Barlow said. “I have a newfound respect for how, in fact, this actually has helped a lot of patients ... I had a stereotype of who was going to be inside of the facilities, but I was gravely wrong."

Another Nevada county took steps to jumpstart the medical marijuana business a few hours after the Las Vegas City Council took its vote. Clark County in southern Nevada approved land-use and licensing regulations to allow dispensaries to apply for special-use permits next month.

Clark County will likely become home to medical marijuana pioneers in the state, since it is the first local government in the southern part of the state to pass regulations and pave the way for entrepreneurs. 

“This is a monumental step I think that the county took,” Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said. “We tried to get everything right, but I think that time is going to tell what we got right and what we got wrong, what adjustments and tweaks are going to have to be made in the future.”

The measure passed 4-2, with commissioners debating zoning restrictions that would not drive up costs for the business and ultimately for the patient. Cultivators will be required to pass background checks and meet other requirements.

Nevada’s state medical marijuana regulations are due to be finalized this year.

Sources: Associated Press, Las Vegas Sun