Why is Clark County acting before the state in med pot licensing?

I’m not a suspicious guy.

OK, strike that.

I admit it: I’m a very suspicious guy.

Anyone who covers politics should be. And being around government in Nevada for almost 30 years, I think I’ve earned the right.

So when I see all these community luminaries, lobbyists and former politicians lining up  for The Great Green Rush, my antennae go up. It’s not just that I know, despite some of their professions of altruism, that they smell the money in medical marijuana and want to inhale. Estimates are up to $1.5 billion -- and that's before recreational pot gets approved here in 2016.

Fine. Capitalism. Great.

But there’s something going on here, something that makes me even more suspicious than usual. That’s because the process seems backward to me.

The bill, SB 374, clearly set up a bifurcated system whereby the state would vet applicants and then the local jurisdictions would decide where they can be located.

But thanks especially to the Clark County Commission setting up a special use permit process, giving it immense power over approvals before the state does a thing, the locus of control has reversed.

Bill sponsor Tick Segerblom, the Las Vegas state senator, said it was “spot on” to say his law essentially “was changed.” Maybe he meant hijacked.

For instance, the state set aside 10 days a year to take applications, a process that won’t take place until late summer, said Chad Westom, the chief of the state’s Bureau of Health Statistics, Planning, and Response.


Because, Westom told me, he has to staff up and hire a bunch of folks to meet the law’s mandate. One section says the state has to collect fingerprints from all applicants for FBI background checks. After they have been approved by the county?

And the selection by the state must be merit-based, with specific criteria laid out in the law:

1. The total financial resources of the applicant, both liquid and illiquid;

 2. The previous experience of the persons who are proposed to be owners, officers or board members of the proposed medical marijuana establishment at operating other businesses ornonprofit organizations;

 3. The educational achievements of the persons who are proposed to be owners, officers or board members of the proposed medical marijuana establishment;

 4. Any demonstrated knowledge or expertise on the part of the persons who are proposed to be owners, officers or board members of the proposed medical marijuana establishment with respect to the compassionate use of marijuana to treat medical conditions;

5. Whether the proposed location of the proposed medical marijuana establishment would be convenient to serve the needs of persons who are authorized to engage in the medical use of marijuana;

6. The likely impact of the proposed medical marijuana establishment on the community in which it is proposed to be located;

7. The adequacy of the size of the proposed medical marijuana establishment to serve the needs of persons who are authorized to engage in the medical use of marijuana;

 8. Whether the applicant has an integrated plan for the care, quality and safekeeping of medical marijuana from seed to sale;

 9. The amount of taxes paid to, or other beneficial financial contributions made to, the State of Nevada or its political subdivisions by the applicant or the persons who are proposed to be owners, officers or board members of the proposed medical marijuana establishment.

Let me repeat, merit-based. As opposed to being subject to the caprices of politicians, whom, I’ve heard, can be influenced by lobbyists and juice.

Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said “one could make the inference” that the process was backwards. But, he added, “At the same time, local jurisdictions wanted to maintain as much control over the applicants that are forwarded to the state.  Since we know the areas better than the state, how could the state possibly make findings as it relates to zoning suitability?   It is my understanding that we will forward the number of ‘special use permits’ granted to the state for them to approve after we are done.”

Of course, Westom & Co. don’t care a whit about zoning. They care about qualifications.

Westom told me the locals can assert their jurisdictional oversight. “We respect their authority to proceed,” he said.

On Tuesday, Clark County, using a provision in the law, nearly doubled the number of dispensary licenses it can grant to 18. Normally, I would be suspicious of such a move.

OK. I’m suspicious of such a move.

Fasten your seat belts, folks…..