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County may allow pot dispensary in Pahrump

Nye County commissioners are considering a bill to repeal a previous medical marijuana zoning bill, so dispensaries would now be allowed in the Pahrump Regional Planning District and another bill allowing individuals to continue growing their own marijuana apparently in defiance of state law.

Both bills were set for a public hearing May 19 in Pahrump.

The latest bill, no. 2014-16, removed the exception of medical marijuana dispensaries from establishments that would be permitted in the light and heavy industrial zones within the Pahrump Regional Planning District or outside it. The newest zoning bill also calls for a special use permit to be required instead of a conditional use permit that will give county commissioners approval over individual applications.

The new bill includes requirements for an adequate transportation plan to ensure security while transporting marijuana from grow houses to the point of sale; secure packaging to prevent child access; a professional appearance for establishments compatible to the neighborhood; consideration of whether crime in the area poses an undue threat to security and whether dispensaries will provide convenient access to those authorized to use medical marijuana.

Both bills require a 1,500 foot buffer zone from a school, park, child care facility or church and not within 300 feet of any other community facility or residence. The property owner must sign an affidavit stating the property is being used for a medical marijuana establishment, an affidavit acknowledging it’s a violation of federal law and an affidavit holding Nye County harmless against federal law enforcement actions.

The applicants must submit a site plan and a business plan. Both bills have restrictions prohibiting consumption of marijuana on the premises; signage limited to a wall sign not larger than two square feet; a ban on minors under 18; cultivation or production only in an enclosed facility; no sales or storage outdoors including displays visible from the outside and surveillance cameras.

The other bill, 2014-18, states the Board of County Commissioners finds the public health, safety and welfare of residents in need of marijuana for medical purposes is best served by allowing patients and caregivers to retain the ability to grow it for medicinal purposes even if dispensaries are authorized in the county. Nye County is allowed one medical marijuana dispensary by state law.

“The board finds that the constitutional right adopted by the voters and should not be restricted as a result of the granting of limited and exclusive franchises to medical marijuana establishments within Nye County,” the bill states. “The Board of County Commissioners specifically finds that the best interests of the residents of Nye county is served by allowing patients and designated primary caregivers to have the ability to grow marijuana after April 1, 2016 even if the patient or designated primary caregiver resides within 25 miles of an authorized medical marijuana dispensary.”

Nevada Revised Statutes ban a person with a medical marijuana registry card from growing marijuana if a dispensary opens in their county unless they were growing marijuana before July 1, 2013, or if the dispensary is unable to provide their strain necessary for medical use, the person is medically unable to reasonably travel to a dispensary or no dispensary was operating within 25 miles when the person applied for the card.

When asked for comment, District Attorney Brian Kunzi admitted the county bill conflicts with state law.

“This bill is contrary to the changes in the law regarding the ability to grow one’s own marijuana. This is a very difficult issue. The Nevada Constitution provided individuals with the right to possess marijuana plants to be used for medicinal purposes. While I believe the state may regulate the amount of the marijuana plants that may be possessed for truly medicinal purposes, banning the ability to grow and then forcing an individual to purchase medical marijuana from the one dispenser that is permitted in Nye County, which is a government created monopoly, could be considered an unconstitutional infringement on the right that was adopted by the people.

“Recognizing the right to grow as a necessary element of the Nevada Constitutional provision regarding medical marijuana is more defensible than the laws passed regarding the sale and possession of fireworks,” he said.

County Commissioner Frank Carbone pushed to exclude dispensaries from Pahrump in the earlier bill, to allow people growing marijuana to continue.

The county bill mirrors language in the state law that states people with a valid registry identification card are exempt from prosecution for possession, delivery or production of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia or aiding or abetting another person. A person who engages in medical use of marijuana to mitigate a person’s chronic or debilitating medical condition can possess or deliver up to two and a half ounces of marijuana in a two-week period, 12 marijuana plants, and a maximum allowable quantity of edible marijuana and marijuana infused products as established by regulations of the division. Those people must ensure the marijuana is safeguarded in an enclosed, secure location.

The county bill notes that on Nov. 7, 2000 a medical marijuana bill was approved by 63 percent of Nye County voters and by 62 percent of voters in the state amending the Nevada Constitution to allow for the possession and use of marijuana plants by patients and their caregivers.

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