Medical marijuana dispensaries: a tough sell in Reno

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Medical marijuana dispensaries: a tough sell in Reno

The Reno City Council is beginning to grapple with how to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. It held the first discussion on the matter, since Governor Brian Sandoval signed legislation legalizing the drug.

The general temperament of the City Council and Mayor Bob Cashell was cautious. Assistant City Manager Cadence Matijevich noted that dispensaries must be located in a commercial area, to which Mayor Cashell responded:

"So commercial could be on Virginia Street?"

The short answer was yes, under state law. In reality, the City has enormous power over how they design the ordinances. According to the legislation, only ten dispensaries, in total, would be allowed in Washoe County, and only two of those could be in Reno. In fact, the Council has the ability to say they don't want any dispensaries. According to Matijevich, Washoe County actually has the authority to increase the number of dispensaries, which in theory could make room for more in Reno. That's because the legislation says 25% of dispensaries in a given county can be in a city the size of Reno. That said, the County doesn't have the ability to force Reno to issue more than two permits, or any for that matter. Matijevich says they'll be looking to states like Arizona and Colorado for lessons.

Council member Dwight Dorch says if they do want to allow the dispensaries, they should make strict criteria both about the issuing of ordinances and licences:

"If we as a city provide a license to perform illegal activity, and the Feds come and close them down. And let's say they have invested millions of dollars, are we going to be on the hook?"

Dorch and others worried about the cost to the city of researching and establishing regulations for dispensaries. Still, they agreed to study the options and wait for a report in September.