In March, Nevada Democratic Senator Tick Segerblom introduced a new piece of legislation concerning production, manufacturing, distribution, and use of medical marijuana, raising a few eyebrows along the way. What makes Senate Bill 372 so interesting is that it will allow veterinarians to issue medical marijuana cards to pets if their owners are Nevada residents and if the vet believes marijuana could treat the pet’s ailments. Though the bill addresses the medical needs of household pets and though it is that aspect that has received so much media attention nationwide,, the bill actually contains much more than meets the eye. If passed in its current form, SB 372 will also have wide ranging implications for the use of medical marijuana statewide, by humans.
Here are some of the highlights of the proposed changes encompassed in SB 372:
- More Dispensaries. In November of 2014, the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health awarded 66 dispensary licenses throughout the state, 40 of which were for Clark County. Section 32 of SB 372 will require the Division to issue at least one additional medical marijuana establishment registration certificate for every 20,000 people in the state and to apportion the certificates between the counties on the basis of each county’s population. SB 372 will also require that the Division create and issue additional medical marijuana establishments certificates to entities operated by a physician solely to research the medical use of marijuana. If this provision passes, there will be a huge increase in the number of marijuana licenses. Clark County by itself has a population of just over 2 million people, which would require the Division to issue at least another 60 dispensary licenses in Clark County alone.
- Edibles Production. Edible marijuana is proving to be one of the more difficult areas to regulate nationwide. States like Colorado and Washington, which both already have some aggressive regulations surrounding edibles, are exploring adding additional regulations to more effectively regulate consumable cannabis products. By contrast, SB 372 in Nevada could actually reduce government regulation associated with such products. Specifically, Sections 1 and 36 of this bill would exempt edible manufacturers from existing state food production and management laws. Removing state regulations likely will give edibles production facilities in Nevada an opportunity to operate more freely, minus the numerous regulations that govern restaurants and bars.
- Marijuana in the Workplace. Most large companies have zero-tolerance drug policies for their employees. SB 372 seeks to create an exemption for employees who test positive for marijuana due to lawful medical usage of medical cannabis. Section 44 of SB 372 creates a rebuttable presumption of reasonable accommodation for an employee who uses medical marijuana if the employee’s usage does not pose a threat of harm or danger, impose an undue hardship on the employer and prevent the employee from fulfilling his or her job responsibilities. Instead of a failed drug test serving as grounds for immediate termination, an employee who tests positive for marijuana will be able to argue that his or her use of cannabis for medical purposes outside of the workplace should not be a terminable offense.
- Marijuana DUIs: Operating under the influence of any drug is against the law and marijuana is no exception despite its legalization in Nevada. But because certain marijuana components can remain in the bloodstream far longer than the person is actually under the influence of marijuana, Sections 30 and 46 of SB 372 would render the presence of marijuana or marijuana metabolite in the body, blood, breath, or urine of a person a DUI only if such substances actually impaired the person’s driving. Police officers could no longer use the possibility of marijuana intoxication as a basis to arrest a driver, and they also could not use the test results showing inactive THC as a basis for conviction.
Nevada law and regulations concerning the commercial production, manufacture, and distribution of medical marijuana remain ever-changing, but with each change from the state brings both new challenges and opportunities for marijuana businesses and consumers. As always, our advice to marijuana businesses in Nevada (and elsewhere) is to remain vigilant and roll with the punches.