Nevada recently revised its medical marijuana laws to institute a licensing regime for medical marijuana businesses, creating a transparent chain of distribution and sale for medical marijuana. Though the State of Nevada has not yet opened its ten-day window for license applicants, Clark County has already opened and closed its local permitting window for medical marijuana dispensaries, manufacturers, producers, and even labs in unincorporated portions of the county. (Unincorporated areas include some parts of the city of Las Vegas.)
One of our long-time Seattle cannabis clients (The Joint) applied for a medical marijuana dispensary conditional use permit in Clark County. Our Canna Law Group attorneys drafted and submitted this application (we have a Nevada-licensed attorney), so we have previewed state licensing firsthand — Clark County’s permitting regime is nearly identical to the State’s.
The Joint* was interviewed by News 3 in a piece entitled, Clark County Braces for ‘Green Rush’. Shy Sadis, head manager of The Joint, made clear to News 3 what it takes in Clark County to net a license: capital, experience, and connections.
But what did it take on the legal end?
First, attention to detail. Unlike most of the other cannabis licensing regimes with which we have worked, Clark County actually focused on applicant merit. Applicants were asked to write a 750-word statement discussing their experience with business, with government relations, and with running a medical marijuana establishment. Applicants were also tasked with writing a 2,500-word statement about themselves and their “core team,” focusing on the talent and the experience they would bring to their respective marijuana businesses should Clark County grant them a license. Needless to say, we spent considerable time with The Joint’s management and staff compiling and polishing these statements so as to show Clark County that the Joint knows what it’s doing when it comes to operating a responsible and organized marijuana dispensary and that it is therefore deserving of a license.
Second, local and State law compliance. If you have looked at the Clark County permitting scheme, you know that it closely mirrors the State of Nevada’s licensing scheme in both content and disclosure requirements. In about a three-week period, applicants first had to submit pre-screen forms to the Clark County Department of Business License. Only after submitting those forms could a “medical marijuana establishment” then apply for a conditional use permit from the Clark County Comprehensive Planning Department. For the pre-screen, applicants had to complete seventeen items, ranging from demonstrating that they had at least $250,000 in the bank and sufficient business experience and competence, to providing various financial projections and budgeting, a community impact statement, and a scaled site plan drawing. Items 16 and 17 (FBI reports and executed leases or deeds of trust for the proposed business location) are not due until May 9.
Third, organization. Clark County was very particular about how these permitting packets needed to be organized and delivered to the Department of Business License and Comprehensive Planning. The County required that the packets be individually tabbed (Items 1-17) in twelve separate binders with twelve copies of EACH Item number inside. The County also required that the packets be hand-delivered to the Department of Business License by 3 p.m. on April 22. Our firm’s Nevada lawyer was instrumental in putting these packets together, and to decrease any risk of misdelivery, he hand delivered them himself.
Then came the conditional use permit application. By May 2, all conditional use permit applications had to be submitted to the County. First and foremost, the proposed facility had to be correctly zoned to be eligible for the conditional use permit. The permit application itself required, among other things:
- The signature of the landowner on the actual application (which also had to be notarized);
- A drawn-to-scale site plan, floor plan, and elevation drawings:
- An official copy of the property’s deed;
- A justification letter (following all provisions in the county code) explaining why the applicant should be allowed to locate at its proposed location;
- A property spatial analysis evaluating whether and what schools, hospitals, or clinics were within close proximity to the marijuana business.
We understand that most applicants didn’t realize that they would need to be interviewed in person by someone from the County Planner’s office for their application to move forward. We were aware of this and after we gathered all of the required land use information (including proof that we had already filed with the Department of Business License), we presented it all to the County Planner’s office and sat through the interview with our client. This interview took about an hour and a half and during it we had to provide detailed explanations about the business.
By now, you’re probably thinking that the above is all that will be required. But no, we are not done yet. In early June, we will appear on The Joint’s behalf at a public hearing during which we will again explain why The Joint is deserving of a dispensary license in Clark County.
Though the opportunity to set up your marijuana business in unincorporated Clark County has come and gone, marijuana business hopefuls should still keep their eyes on Las Vegas, which has yet to develop and pass its own local marijuana rules, although proposed rules are available. We expect Las Vegas’s requirements to be similar to (or even more intense than) Clark County’s.
* Our law firm has assisted hundreds of marijuana businesses with license applications in multiple states. But because it appeared on television regarding their Clark County application, we reached out to the Joint to see if it would approve of our writing about the Joint’s experience here. The Joint agreed, and that is why it is the focus of this post.