Fearing crossfire from state/federal conflicts, Nevada cities kick MMJ discussions down the road

Photo Courtesy Torben Hansen via Flickr

Photo Courtesy Torben Hansen via Flickr

Following in the footsteps of Las Vegas, the Reno City Council decided last week to delay any vote or conversation on implementing medical marijuana until next year.

Though the Las Vegas City Council ultimately took a harsher route in placing a six-month moratorium on any type of medical marijuana business (Reno only voted to reconvene six months down the road), the two largest counties in Nevada have decided to wait until early 2014 to set local ordinances governing the legal buying and selling of medical marijuana.

At this point, I think (we need) a wait and see approach,” Reno City Councilwoman Neoma Jardon told RGJ reporter Emerson Marcus.

News of the delays, especially in Las Vegas, attracted some criticism from medical marijuana activists, but essentially puts both cities on the same path as the state towards an April 1, 2014 deadline to figure out any additional medical marijuana guidelines, as set forth in a bill passed last legislative session.

A disagreement over the delay is why Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus voted against the Council’s decision to reconvene. Brekhus, who was the only ‘no’ vote, said she was wary of any sort of vote to limit medical marijuana due to the “muddled grounds” between federal, state and local laws.

While Brekhus said she personally sees the merits of medical marijuana, she would rather wait and see how state regulators shape medical marijuana policy, rather than forge ahead and deal with the consequences of being caught between state and federal laws.

“I think it’s really getting into a muddled area between federal and state authorities and cities are caught in the middle,” she said.

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Introducing: A blog about medical marijuana in Nevada

It’s a great time to be a stoner.


All throughout the United States, individual states are for the most part moving to decriminalize and lessen punishments associated with the use and purchase of both medical and recreational marijuana. From Washington and Colorado legalizing pot in late 2012 to Attorney General Eric Holder’s call for sweeping changes to the nation’s drug sentencing laws, it’s quite clear that acceptance of marijuana is becoming more and more widespread.


And the state of Nevada is by no means left out of this issue; in fact, Nevadans fighting over marijuana has been in the headlines for more than a decade. In 2000, residents of the state voted to legalize medical marijuana, and then two years later shot down a proposal to legalize recreational use of marijuana by almost two-thirds of voters.


And in the last state legislative session, a bill was passed to create a regulatory structure for medical marijuana dispensaries, as the state’s approximately 4,000 medical marijuana card holders have had no legal way to buy marijuana since 2000. Senate Bill 374, a bipartisan piece of legislation based mostly on Arizona’s medical marijuana system, set a deadline of early 2014 for the first medical marijuana dispensaries to be opened.


But it’s the journey to that system that’s extremely interesting. The intersecting conflicts and fights over how medicinal marijuana will be regulated involves everyone from marijuana advocates, zoning boards, U.S. Senators and local law enforcement. And the bill’s provision to allow local governments to make many of the zoning and regulatory decisions themselves means that local elected officials, like the Reno City Council, face the question of whether or not it’s even worth following the bill especially as marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Several rural counties are already pushing in that direction.


Needless to say, there’s a ton of questions sure to arise in the coming months as state regulators get a better handle on what type of medical marijuana system to implement. Some will be practical – how will the dispensaries be zoned, who will have access to them, how much will medicinal marijuana cost?


But I’d also like to get at the underlying issues for medical marijuana implementation: Who exactly holds medical marijuana cards, and what do those demographics in general look like? What kind of an impact would easing access to marijuana have on law enforcement in Reno? A state-wide proposition to legalize marijuana was defeated in 2002 – why have things changed in such a short amount of time? Who has the cash to pay the significant sums required by the state to start medical marijuana facilities? Will elected officials on Reno City Council even vote to authorize medical marijuana within city limits?


Over the next nine weeks and beyond, I hope to tackle and get a better sense on what a medical marijuana system will look like in Nevada’s future. But the story won’t stop there – there’s a significant undercurrent afoot that holds that once regulations for medical marijuana are in place, expanding to recreational marijuana won’t be nearly as difficult. State Senator Tick Segerblom told me as much over summer.


So for the next nine weeks, I’ll be posting mainly about medical marijuana. I’m calling it (for now) “The Silver Bake,” or at least until I can think of a catchier title. All of the posts will appear on this blog, and archived on a separate page.

On a personal level, I don’t really have a dog in this fight- I don’t smoke marijuana and don’t plan too, regardless of whatever kind of legalization may pass over the coming decades. I’m welcome to all kinds of criticism and comments, and please don’t hesitate to comment or contact me if you have questions or ideas of what you’d like to see covered. You can contact me here.