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County rankings hold little sway on state’s decision

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services wanted county recommendations on dispensaries, with Nye County only allowed one, but it was a question mark how many cultivation facilities would get approval in Carson City, Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen said last Wednesday.

“For cultivation it may not (matter) but for dispensaries, hopefully they’ll consider our top three,” Schinhofen said.

If the applicants are successful at the state level, they will receive a provisional license and then come back to the county for a licensing process similar to the liquor and gaming licenses, with the county doing background checks and a verification of financial records. The Nevada Division of Public and Behavorial Health, part of the state health and human services department, is accepting applications for medical marijuana registration certificates between Aug. 5-18. A 90-day review will take place before recommendations and approvals are returned to county officials.

Chad Westom, division bureau chief for the medical marijuana program, said the state will do its own independent review, with a maximum of 250 points per application. He said the county priority ranking won’t be considered in issuing the provisional certificate. After the state makes its decision, counties and local government officials will be consulted.

“The processes are not the same. There’s no assurance we’ll all end up on the same page,” Westom said.

The application is 45 pages. The division was authorized to hire 12 employees to review applications. They also hired 15 contracted professionals in areas like health inspections and accounting, he said.

The state isn’t likely to trim the number of permitted cultivation facilities just because there’s only one dispensary in Nye County, Westom said. If the division feels a need to limit marijuana cultivation statewide, it’s an option that would have to be considered at a future public hearing.

Only three applicants were denied permits by county commissioners. Applicant Willia Chaney wanted to open a cultivation facility at 2121 W. Blosser Ranch Rd., she was accompanied in her presentation by Marvin Caperton. The other two were in northern Nye County. No representatives of Aquaponics Technologies LLC even appeared to lobby for their proposed cultivation facility on 155.2 acres in Lower Smoky Valley. Planner Kelly Harris said their business license was revoked according to the Nevada Secretary of State’s website. Planning Director Darrell Lacy said it was the most remote application, but that presented security problems.

Fred Alaee, who bought the old Silver Lanes Bowling Alley on Highway 6 in Tonopah from the government in 2006, said he would present his case to the state anyway next month, after being rejected for a special use permit for a dispensary, production and cultivation facility. Alaee, a native French speaker struggling to speak English, said he was chief executive officer of one of the largest portable computer manufacturers and distributors in Southern California. Alaee pledged to commit up to half the net proceeds for community education to establish a computer training facility in Tonopah.

Alaee said his product, low in THC, would help some of the 31,000 epilepsy patients in Nevada. It is well away from any school, church, community center or residential area, he said.

Schinhofen said a few applicants like Alaee didn’t have the financial information in their report to meet state minimums.

Symbiosis LLC founder Steve Pingree, who finished second to last in priority in the list of cultivation facilities for his Amargosa Valley project, said all the applications will be sent to the state. But he thinks a lack of positive impacts on the community may have affected his application before the county.

“They are not going to tell us why they ranked us the way they did,” Pingree said.

County Commissioner Frank Carbone said the matrix, with the scoring for the applicants on each of the factors outlined by the county, will be kept private as an internal document.

Pingree is the founder of Farm Road LLC, a pine tree farm that formerly operated in Amargosa Valley. The company owns over 300 acres in Amargosa Valley and over 200 acre feet of water rights. Symbiosis LLC purchased three parcels totaling 43.3 acres and 20 acre feet of commercially-permitted water rights. Pingree pledged 270 acres of land worth $3.5 million and secure $500,000 required for the state bonds.

While asked whether he would use armed guards, Pingree, an attorney, said a U.S. Department of Justice memo issued in August 2013 said the federal government wouldn’t enforce federal laws against medical marijuana if states followed eight criteria — one criteria is that there be no weapons used in the cultivation, transportation and sale.

Dr. Pejman Bady, now an administrator for Health Care Partners, was part of a group called NuVeda LLC that wants to locate a cultivation, production and dispensary operation in a shopping center at 301 S. Oxbow Ave. that is shared by existing businesses, like Pahrump Valley Roasters.

Commissioner Butch Borasky, who has opposed medical marijuana, wasn’t present for the day-long discussions last week. Borasky said he had a medical appointment.

“This is a travesty. The board was so gung ho to do this,” Borasky said Friday. He predicted the high cost to taxpayers of dealing with the negative effects of medical marijuana sales and use will outweigh any benefits to patients.

Still, Borasky didn’t have any of his own constituents opposed to the idea step up to the speaker’s table last week. The only opposition under public comment appeared to come from the NyE Communities Coalition.

“My age group was taught if you even looked at a marijuana cigarette you’d become a heroin addict,” resident Dan VonWeller said. But he added, “I’ve used medical marijuana for a long, long time and it isn’t any magic cure-all, a magic carpet ride, it just makes the pain to where it’s tolerable where you don’t hurt so bad you just want to beat your head against the wall.”

George Mapes, 2571 E. Manse Rd., said he agreed medical marijuana should be legal and said their granddaughter couldn’t speak until she got medical marijuana in liquid drops in Colorado. But he objected to a proposal to construct a cultivation facility in the old Nevada Bottling Company facility at 5101 S. Oakridge Ave. Jean Mapes said the facility is too close to residents like Escapees RV Park and there’s a declining water level in the area.

Pharmacist Michael Burkintas said he couldn’t understand why the state only allowed one dispensary in Nye County, which is the third largest in area in the nation. State law, however, doesn’t put a limit on the number of cultivation facilities.

Hospice volunteer Jo Ann Cretney said she’s seen a lot of clients who have benefited from medical marijuana, particularly the drops.

“It takes guts to stand up and try to do what they’re trying to do. We’re really trying to be pioneers in this county considering how difficult it is in other counties to be integrated,” Cretney said.

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