Lawmakers in Oregon & Nevada Look to Legalize, Legitimize Cannabis Dispensaries

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Bills to legalize medical cannabis dispensaries are now on the table in Oregon and Nevada – two states that have had MMJ laws on the books for years but do not technically allow storefront centers.

The measures would help stabilize the situation in Oregon, where hundreds of dispensaries have cropped up anyway, and create a brand new market in Nevada that could generate millions of dollars for the industry. (Both states also are considering measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use.)

Here are some details on the dispensary bills and more information on each market:

Oregon: Last week, lawmakers in Oregon submitted a measure that would set up a comprehensive distribution system for medical marijuana, allowing registered dispensaries to sell cannabis to qualified patients. The dispensaries would have to meet certain requirements – including those tied to security and testing – and obtain permits from the state. Essentially, patients could authorize their grower/caregiver to “transfer” marijuana to a dispensary, which could then “transfer” it to patients or other caregivers. The growers and dispensaries could receive compensation in return. You can read the entire measure – House Bill 3460 – here.

As many as 200 dispensaries exist in Oregon, according to MMJ Business Daily’s estimates, despite the fact that they are considered illegal under the state’s medical marijuana law. Oregon officials have done little to crack down on these operations, leaving it up to individual cities and counties to decide whether to target the industry. Still, dispensaries are walking on shaky ground, as the state could decide to try to close them at any time.

It’s unclear how the bill would affect the current market. Some dispensaries might have to shut down if they can’t meet the requirements. For others – especially bare-bones operations –  the law could increase costs substantially, as they’ have to upgrade their current operations to meet new requirements. In general, though, this is a good bill for the state’s MMJ industry, as it would bring some measure of stability and reduce risks greatly for those that comply.

Nevada: A state senator has introduced a measure – Senate Bill 374 – that would allow nonprofit dispensaries to set up shop and sell cannabis to registered patients. The dispensaries would have to meet certain requirements set by the state and pay application and permit fees. The maximum fees would be:

– $5,000 for issuance of dispensary registration certificate

– $1,000 for certificate renewal

– $2,500 for change of address

– $500 for dispensary agent registration card

– $500 for renewal of agent registration card

The bill would set a limit on the number of dispensaries that could open. According the measure, Nevada “shall not issue dispensary registration certificates in such a quantity as to cause the existence of more than one nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary for every 10 pharmacies that have been licensed…and are operating within this state.” Officials could make an exception to ensure that each county has at least one dispensary.

You can read the full bill here.

The state’s medical marijuana law – enacted in 2000 – doesn’t specify how patients and caregivers are supposed to get their cannabis, and local authorities have shut down some dispensaries and collectives that have opened over the years. The measure, therefore, could create a viable industry in Nevada, paving the way for millions of dollars in revenues.

Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr