By Brian Bahouth

Reno – The Nevada Senate Judiciary committee passed four important pieces of cannabis legislation today, just ahead of a Friday deadline when all legislation must be voted from the committee in which it was first assigned.  There are nearly a dozen more marijuana bills still pending before Friday’s deadline, but moving four key pieces of legislation on to a full vote of the Senate represents some legislative heavy lifting central to the implementation of legal cannabis in Nevada.

Since the passage of Ballot Question 2 (BQ2) last November, state Senator Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) has been Nevada’s cannabis master of ceremonies in writing and sponsoring more than a dozen bills this legislative session intended to aid the smooth implementation of BQ2, which legalizes the adult possession of cannabis and mandates a system to tax and regulate marijuana businesses.  Segerblom is chair of Senate Judiciary and continues to shepherd numerous, critical marijuana bills through his otherwise very busy committee.

On Wednesday the committee considered 9 marijuana bills in “work session” and passed four.  One bill died and three pieces of legislation rolled over to Thursday or Friday’s meeting for further consideration and likely a vote before Friday’s deadline.

Cannabis Clubs and Events 

Members of the Senate Judiciary committee voted along party lines (4-3) when they passed a bill that would allow Nevada municipalities to authorize cannabis clubs and events where cannabis can be openly consumed, Senate Bill 236.   SB 236 would authorize municipalities in Nevada to “require a person who wishes to operate a business in which the use of marijuana is allowed or to hold a special event at which the use of marijuana is allowed to obtain a license or permit.”  The bill is enabling legislation and does not mandate local governments do anything.  The measure would allow municipalities to license a wide variety of venues where cannabis can be publicly consumed, should a local government decide to do so.

No one under the age of 21 would be permitted in a club or event licensed to allow the open use of marijuana.  Bill language prohibits a cannabis club or event from being located within 1,000 feet of a public or private school or community facility, and cannabis must be consumed in an area, “which is not viewable from any public place.”

The bill would authorize municipalities to collect a fee for the issuance of licenses and special event permits, “which does not exceed the fee charged for other special event permits.”  And while SB 236 as written also grants municipalities wide latitude to regulate and license the time, place and manner of cannabis clubs and events, it prohibits a municipality from arbitrarily limiting the number of licenses or permits issued.

Senate Bill 236 would allow the consumption of both alcohol and cannabis in the same location, and Nevada is uniquely positioned among all the states to allow and regulate the indoor consumption of smokable cannabis products.  Nevada is the only US state to allow any form of indoor tobacco use.  The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act allows smoking on casino gaming floors where children are prohibited from loitering and in bars that do not serve food, and because of these liberal indoor smoking laws, Nevada is uniquely positioned to authorize and regulate the public consumption of cannabis.

See a full report on SB 236 here.

Cannabis Edibles

Members of the Senate Judiciary committee unanimously approved a measure that would establish new, more strict guidelines for edible cannabis products in Nevada.  Senate Bill 344 would affect both medical and “recreational” edibles: Bill highlights:

  • The product must be sold in single serving packages.
  • Marijuana edible products must be labeled in a manner which indicates the number of servings of THC in the product, measured in servings of a maximum of 25 milligrams per serving, and includes a statement that the product contains marijuana and its potency was tested with an allowable variance of the amount determined by the independent testing laboratory which performed the testing.
  • The marijuana product cannot be packaged or labeled in such a way to appear to be candy appeal to children or contain an image of a cartoon character, mascot, action figure, balloon, fruit or toy.
  • Any brand of cannabis infused edibles cannot be modelled after a brand of products that are primarily consumed or marketed to children.
  • Marijuana cannot be infused in a commercially available candy or snack food item.
  • The product cannot be sealed in a transparent bag or container.
  • With regard to the advertising of products … the advertisement shall not be made to appeal to a children.
  • Provisions are laid out for both medical and recreational marijuana.  Should the bill become law, the rules for medical cannabis edibles would take effect on July1, 2017, and rules for adult use edibles would take effect on January 1, 2018, the deadline for implementation of Ballot Measure 2.

See a full report on SB 344 here.

Professional Protections

Today the Senate Judiciary committee passed Senate Bill 374, a measure that would prohibit “a professional licensing board from taking disciplinary action against a licensee who holds a registry identification card or engages in certain lawful activities relating to marijuana; prohibiting an employer from taking adverse action against an employee for expressing opinions relating to marijuana.”

The bill language notes that it is currently unlawful for a Nevada employer to take action against an employee or prospective employee “on the basis of the employee’s lawful use of any product outside the premises of the employer during the employee’s nonworking hours, if the use does not adversely affect work performance or the safety of other employees.”

Senate Bill 374 would also prohibit an employer from taking action against an employee or prospective employee who expresses an opinion about marijuana.

Tribal Agreements

Senate Bill 375 authorizes “the Governor of Nevada or his or her designee to enter into agreements with Indian tribes in Nevada relating to the regulation of the use of marijuana.”  In short, tribal marijuana businesses could then be licensed and regulated as part of the state’s rules governing both medical and adult use cannabis, so the bill would allow the state to exercise limited regulatory and criminal authority on tribal land.

Federal guidance contained in the “Cole Memo” and the “Wilkinson Memo” enable tribal governments to implement their own programs for the regulation of marijuana on tribal lands, which some see as a potential source of regulatory and law enforcement conflicts with state and local authorities, so this bill allows the state of Nevada to license and regulate tribal marijuana businesses under regulations currently being written and adopted by the Nevada Department of Taxation.

During an April 6 hearing in Senate Judiciary on SB 375, a group of tribal representatives came forward as the Nevada Tribal Cannabis Alliance, and several described the positive economic potential legal and regulated marijuana presents for their communities.  Thirteen of the state’s 19 federally recognized tribes are in the Alliance:

Las Vegas Paiute Tribe
Fort McDermitt Pai-Sho Tribe
Yerington Paiute Tribe
Duckwater Shoshone Tribe
Walker River Paite Tribe
Confederated Tribes of Goshute
Reno-Sparks Colony
Wells Band Colony
Elko Band Colony
Ely Shoshone Tribe
Moapa Paiute Tribe
Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe
Timbisha Shoshone Tribe

Friday is Coming

There are several critical pieces of marijuana legislation yet to pass Senate Judiciary.  Lawmakers and lobbyists and stakeholders are reconciling areas of difference so key pieces of legislation can move forward in support of BQ2.  Sure to surface before Friday is the critical “Early Start” program bill, SB 302, which would allow Nevada’s system of medical marijuana dispensaries to open to the general adult public as soon as this summer on temporary regulations.  Senate Bill 329 will also likely see a vote before Friday and would if made law transfer the Division of Public and Behavioral Health of the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Taxation, among numerous changes.