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Few medical marijuana entrepreneurs step up to apply as state deadline approaches

The last day to apply for setting up a medical marijuana dispensary in Nevada is Monday. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports that so far, the paperwork is trickling in at a much slower rate than officials expected. 

Early on, the state projected that about 450 eager entrepreneurs would come forward with business plans.

"As of Monday, there were 22," says Marla McDade-Williams, who recently stepped down from her post as Deputy Administrator for the state's Division of Public and Behavioral Health. She held the job during last year's legislative session when lawmakers approved the creation of a taxing and distribution system for medical marijuana.

She says there could still be an influx of applications before the deadline hits early next week, but she doesn't expect the state to set up all 66 of its authorized dispensaries any time soon now that some local governments have banned the practice.

"You have some jurisdictions who have chosen not to allow a dispensary to come in," she explains. "Lyon County is a good example. Unincorporated Lyon County voted not to let any dispensaries come in."

Once the state reviews this batch of applications, it will offer provisional certificates late this fall. Then, those businesses must receive approval from their local authorities as well before garnering a final blessing from the state.

McDade-Williams says the first medical marijuana sale in Nevada may not happen until late next year because after all the paperwork is finally done, businesses actually have to set up shop and build an inventory:

"For cultivation facilities, there's a lot of infrastructure that needs to be in place for them to be able to grow their plants, and harvest [them], and then get it to dispensaries."

Nevada voters approved medical marijuana back in 2000, but the only legal way for patients to obtain it was to actually grow it themselves.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.