By Michelle Rindels, Megan Messerly and Riley Snyder
After voters authorized recreational marijuana in November, Nevada lawmakers are discussing a raft of legislation to fill in the details of the new environment.
Here are some key themes running through 23 marijuana-related bills this session, and how they overlap with one another:
- Marijuana taxation policy and ways to spend new revenue: SB181, SB302, SB341, SB379, AB463, SB487, SB508.
- Easing or eliminating punishments for marijuana use: SB228, AB259, SB329, AB345, SB351, SB374, SB378, SB396, AB422.
- Ensuring safe use of marijuana: AB135, SB166, SB277, SB329, SB344, SB378.
- Reorganizing the regulatory environment around medical and recreational marijuana: SB302, SB329, SB375, AB422.
- Marijuana research and economic development: SB236, SB329, SB341, SB396, SB416.
And here are summaries of the bills and their status in the legislative process:
SAFETY AND ABUSE PREVENTION
AB135: Driving under the influence of pot (Assembly Judiciary Committee)
Existing law set specific limits of marijuana in the blood or urine, measured in nanograms per milliliter, over which it’s illegal to drive. The bill removes specific amounts of marijuana in the urine, meaning it can only be measured through the blood. The same changes would apply to driving a commercial vehicle or a vessel.
- Heard March 3 in Assembly Judiciary Committee.
SB344: Barring kid-friendly marijuana products and advertising (Sens. Patricia Farley and Tick Segerblom)
The bill requires each edible marijuana produce to be labeled with the amount of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient, that it contains. It also limits the amount of THC contained in any single package. It prohibits edible marijuana products that look like candy or may appeal to children. Producers of marijuana-infused cookies and brownies must seal those products in a bag or container that’s opaque. Marijuana businesses are also barred from using advertisements that appeal to children.
- Heard in Senate Judiciary March 28. Set for vote on April 12.
SB166: Surveying students on alcohol and drug use (Sen. Patricia Farley et al)
The bill requires the Nevada Department of Education to survey students in middle, junior and high schools about use and abuse of alcohol and drugs. It requires the department to choose schools where the survey will be administered and submit an annual report that summarizes the data collected in the previous year.
- Heard in Senate Education Committee on Feb. 21. Passed out of committee and referred to Senate Finance Committee on April 11.
SB379: Extra medical marijuana industry money given to child welfare programs (Sen. Julia Ratti)
Existing law requires any donations to the state to administer marijuana programs to be first used for the program, then to provide alcohol and drug abuse programs. The bill would require the excess money to be distributed as a block grant to agencies that provide child welfare services, so they can provide substance abuse and behavioral health programs.
- Heard in Senate Revenue and Economic Development Committee on March 23.
SB277: Parole officers can access medical marijuana application data (Senate Judiciary Committee)
Existing laws require the Division of Public and Behavioral Health to maintain confidentiality of certain medical marijuana information. The bill creates an exemption, requiring the division to disclose certain information about medical marijuana card applicants to the Division of Parole and Probation if the applicant is on parole or probation.
- Heard in Senate Judiciary Committee on April 10.
SB181: Higher liquor, cigarette taxes for substance abuse treatment
This bill creates an Account for the Treatment of Substance Abusers that would support treatment for offenders within the Nevada Department of Corrections. It would raise taxes on liquor and bump up the per-pack cigarette tax from $1.80 to $2.40 to fund the account. Each year, the state would pay $65 million from the account to treat offenders and $10 million a year to provide a heroin-assisted treatment pilot program.
- Passed out of Senate Health and Human Services on April 5 and re-referred to Senate Finance.
EASING PENALTIES FOR MARIJUANA
AB259: Vacating marijuana convictions and removing mandatory minimum sentences (Assemblyman William McCurdy et al)
Existing law allows a court to vacate a conviction in certain circumstances. The bill allows a court to vacate a conviction for an act involving marijuana that is lawful as of Jan. 1, 2017, as long as the court notifies the attorney who prosecuted the original case and that attorney can present evidence to the court deciding whether to vacate the conviction.
The bill also requires the court to vacate the conviction if it involved possessing 1 ounce or less of marijuana.
Additionally, it allows the court to depart from mandatory minimum sentences for possession of a controlled substance in certain cases.
- Heard in Assembly Corrections, Parole and Probation on March 14.
AB345: Vacating marijuana convictions (Assemblywoman Brittney Miller)
The bill allows a court to vacate a conviction for an act involving marijuana that is lawful as of Jan. 1, 2017, as long as the court notifies the attorney who prosecuted the original case and that attorney can present evidence to the court deciding whether to vacate the conviction.
The bill also requires the court to vacate the conviction if it involved possessing 1 ounce or less of marijuana.
- No hearing scheduled.
SB351: Concealed weapons permits for medical marijuana users (Sen. Kelvin Atkinson)
Existing law prevents people from possessing a gun if they’re an unlawful user of a controlled substance. The bill affirms that a person who has a medical marijuana card shouldn’t be declared an unlawful user of a controlled substance and denied a concealed weapons permit just because they use medical marijuana.
- No hearing scheduled.
SB374: Marijuana use protection from licensing board discipline (Sen. Tick Segerblom)
Existing law doesn’t allow professional licensing boards to discipline a licensee if they use medical marijuana or are a primary caregiver for a registered medical marijuana cardholder. This measure would prohibit professional licensing boards from disciplining a person licensed by the board for lawfully using medical or recreational marijuana. It would also prohibit employers from punishing employees or prospective employees who express opinions related to marijuana.
- Heard in Senate Judiciary Committee on March 28. Up for a vote on April 12.
EVOLVING MEDICAL MARIJUANA RULES
AB422: Easing medical marijuana rules and removing fees (Assemblyman Nelson Araujo)
The bill transfers responsibility for regulating medical marijuana from the Division of Public and Behavioral Health to the Department of Taxation.
Existing law requires patients and caregivers to apply for a medical marijuana card to be exempt from prosecution, while this bill simply requires their names to be listed on the state’s medical marijuana registry. The bill also eliminates any fees for applying, obtaining or renewing a medical marijuana card.
Existing law allows medical marijuana users to keep not more than 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana in a 14-day period or 12 marijuana plants, and prevents a dispensary from selling a person any more marijuana than that. The bill instead prevents a medical marijuana dispensary from selling more than 1 ounce of marijuana in a transaction, and prohibits the Department of Taxation from tracking a person’s purchases to determine whether they’ve exceeded the level of allowable medical marijuana possession.
Existing law allows a dispensary to accept an out-of-state marijuana card if it’s similar enough to a Nevada registry card and as of April 1, 2018, can be verified in certain databases. The bill allows a dispensary to accept a medical marijuana card regardless of whether it’s expired and allows a doctor’s note to qualify as the card in certain circumstances. It also removes the prospective requirement to verify an out-of-state card through a database.
- Heard in Assembly Health and Human Services Committee on April 5. Set for a vote on April 12.
SB228: Medical marijuana for opioid addiction (Senate Committee on Health and Human Services)
Existing law requires a potential medical marijuana patient to get a doctor’s note saying they have a chronic or debilitating condition that might be alleviated by medical marijuana. The bill adds opioid addiction to the list of chronic or debilitating medical conditions. It also allows psychologists and other mental health and substance abuse workers to affirm that the applicant has an opioid addiction.
The bill expands the list of professional licensing boards that are barred from retaliating against licensees who take actions related to medical marijuana. Existing law includes the Board of Medical Examiners and the State Board of Osteopathic Medicine, but the bill would also include boards overseeing mental health professionals.
- Heard in Senate Health and Human Services on April 3 and is up for a vote April 12.
SB329: Changes to medical marijuana business practices (Sen. Tick Segerblom)
This bill makes many changes to business practices and rules for medical marijuana establishments, including
- Transferring the state’s medical marijuana program from the Division of Public and Behavioral Health over to the state Department of Taxation
- Authorizes and lays out rules for medical marijuana “research facilities,” including creation of a scientific review panel to review marijuana research
- Creates and regulates nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries, which can accept marijuana donations and would be allowed to sell or donate to cardholders on the basis of financial need.
- Allows independent contractors who obtain a registration card for work at a medical marijuana establishment to work at other establishments without obtaining another card.
- Allow medical marijuana businesses to be organized as a corporate entity and issue stock.
- Gives permission for state regulators to issue administrative fines for marijuana businesses that violate regulations or state law.
- Prohibit a person convicted of felony fraud from being an owner, officer or board member of a medical marijuana establishment.
- Prohibit medical marijuana establishments from selling products produced in a form appealing to children.
- Require medical marijuana establishments to have video cameras accessible by law enforcement at any time.
- Adds post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions for which a marijuana card can be issued.
- Allow issuance of a permanent registry card to a veteran or person with a terminable, incurable or permanent medical condition.
- Allow persons convicted of selling a controlled substance to obtain a medical marijuana card
- Increase the amount of marijuana that a medical cardholder can possess from 2.5 ounces to 2.5 pounds of marijuana leaf and 90 grams of “crude concentrated cannabis or 30 grams of purified concentrated cannabis.”
- Creates a separate program allowing for the growth and cultivation of industrial and agricultural hemp, including requirements for growers, handlers and producers.
- Most recently heard in Senate Judiciary on April 7 and is scheduled for a committee vote on April 12.
SB375: Authorizes agreements between the governor and Indian tribes to regulate marijuana (Sen. Tick Segerblom)
The bill allows the governor or a designee to enter into agreements with tribal governments within the state to facilitate cooperation in implementing state and tribal laws governing the use of medical marijuana. It also allows the governor to enter into similar agreements regarding the laws governing the adult use of recreational marijuana on or after January 1, 2020.
- Heard in Senate Judiciary on April 6 and is up for a committee vote on on April 12.
SB378: Medical marijuana cardholder protections and rights (Senate Committee on Judiciary)
This measure makes numerous changes to Nevada’s medical marijuana law, including:
- Allowing medical marijuana cardholders to obtain licenses to carry concealed firearms
- Allowing persons convicted of minor marijuana possession to ask a court to seal documents related to conviction
- Allowing people assigned to alcohol or drug treatment programs to continue using the drug as long as they have a valid medical marijuana card
- Prohibiting cardholders from being evicted for using marijuana,
- Allowing cardholders to use medical marijuana while on the premises of an assisted living facility, hospital or school.
- Removing the odor of marijuana as probable cause for a police search.
- Prohibit eviction or penalization of a legal medical marijuana cardholder for using marijuana.
- Requires certain state workers engage in training on the rights of medical marijuana cardholders
- Removes urine tests for DUI testing, leaving only blood testing for amount of marijuana in a person’s system. Creates provision assuming medical marijuana cardholders give consent to have their saliva tested, and charges state regulators to certify and authorize use of a device that can detect the presence of marijuana in a person’s saliva.
- Heard in the Senate Judiciary on April 7 and is scheduled for a committee vote on Wednesday.
DEVELOPING THE MARIJUANA INDUSTRY
SB396: Marijuana massages (Democratic Sen. Pat Spearman)
Marijuana-focused massages would be expressedly legal in Nevada law under SB396. The measure would allow a health care provider or massage therapist to administer a “marijuana-infused product” such as an oil or ointment to a client if the user provides the product or allow them to recommend use of a marijuana product to treat a condition.
The bill would also exempt health care providers or massage therapists from any crimes for administering or using a marijuana-infused product, and would prohibit professional licensing boards from disciplining them due to use of a marijuana-product. It would also include an addiction to opioids under the list of medical conditions for which a person can apply for a medical marijuana card.
- Heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 4 and is scheduled for a committee vote on April 12.
SB416: Medical marijuana apprenticeships (Democratic Sen. Pat Spearman)
This measure would allow for medical marijuana establishments to submit proposals for apprenticeship programs to state regulators.
- Heard in Senate Judiciary Committee on April 4 and is scheduled for a committee vote on April 12.
SB341: More marijuana licenses and more colleges researching marijuana (Sens. Patricia Farley and Tick Segerblom)
Existing law sets limits on the number of medical marijuana licenses for each county. The bill allows municipalities to request additional dispensary licenses. Current law requires money raised from medical marijuana establishment applications first be used to administer the program, with excess money going to education. Gifts and grants must be used to administer the program or carry out certain substance abuse programs. The bill allows money to also support education and outreach about the safe use of marijuana.
Existing law requires the University of Nevada School of Medicine to seek federal approval to research medical marijuana and then carry out such research when the approval arrives. The bill would expand the law to all public Nevada colleges and universities.
The bill also limits the kind of rules that municipalities can impose on marijuana establishments. Cities and counties can’t create rules that go beyond zoning or land use or rules that aren’t applicable to all other types of businesses.
The bill prevents municipalities from imposing a tax on a marijuana business that exceeds 3 percent of the gross revenue of that business.
- Set for vote in Senate Judiciary on April 12.
SB236: Allowing marijuana use in public businesses and events (Sen. Tick Segerblom)
Question 2 legalized recreational marijuana consumption but generally bars its use in public places. The bill authorizes county commissioners to allow businesses where marijuana can be used, or to issue permits to organizers so marijuana is allowed at special events. It would limit those permits to businesses and events that are restricted to people 21 and older.
- Heard in Senate Judiciary on March 28 and set for vote on April 12.
Current Nevada law places a 2 percent tax on the wholesale sale of marijuana by a cultivation facility, the wholesale sale of edible products and the retail sale of marijuana or edibles, of which 75 percent goes to the Distributive School Account and 25 percent goes to the Division of Public and Behavioral Health.
It also imposes a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale sales of recreational marijuana by cultivation facilities, which first goes to the Department of Taxation and local governments to pay for the costs of implementing Question 2, the ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana in November 2016, with the remainder going to the Distributive School Account.
A number of proposals before the Legislature this session seek to amend the marijuana tax structure in the state by levying additional taxes or standardized the tax structure between medical and recreational marijuana.
Here’s a look at those proposals:
SB508: 10 percent excise tax on recreational marijuana for education (Senate Committee on Revenue and Economic Development on behalf of the governor)
The bill imposes a 10 percent excise tax on each retail sale of recreational marijuana or marijuana products. The proceeds of the tax will go to the Distributive School Account.
- Heard in Senate Revenue and Economic Development on April 6.
SB487: 10 percent excise tax on recreational marijuana for mental health, education, local governments (Sen. Julia Ratti)
The bill imposes a 10 percent excise tax on each retail sale of recreational marijuana or marijuana products. It distributes 20 percent of the proceeds to the Increased Access to Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment Account (created by the bill) and 30 percent to the Distributive School Account, without regard to the location of the stores.
The remaining 50 percent of the proceeds is distributed based upon the location of the businesses: for stores in an unincorporated part of a county, 50 percent goes to the county, and for stores in an incorporated city, 15 percent goes to the city and 35 percent goes to the county.
Counties may use the money they receive from the retail sales of recreational marijuana to increase access or to provide treatment relating to mental health or substance abuse, and to establish or support speciality courts or programs that provide positive alternatives for youth or for law enforcement purposes, including the enforcement of laws prohibiting driving under the influence of alcohol or a prohibited substance or underage use of those substances. Cities may use the money to establish or support programs that provide positive alternatives for youth or for law enforcement purposes.
The bill also requires each county to create an advisory committee on mental health and substance abuse issues to make recommendations regarding the use of the money.
- Heard in Senate Revenue and Economic Development on April 6.
AB463: Standardizing and capping marijuana taxes (Assemblyman Nelson Araujo)
The bill eliminates excise taxes on wholesale sales by facilities that produce edibles or marijuana-infused products and on retail sales by medical marijuana dispensaries. It also revises excise taxes on wholesale sales by cultivation facilities to a rate of 15 percent of the fair market value at wholesale of the marijuana, making it consistent with taxes on a marijuana cultivation facility. If the bill passes, 75 percent of the revenue generated will be directed to the Distributive School Account and 25 percent will go to the Division of Public and Behavioral Health.
The bill also caps any license tax on a marijuana establishment to no more than 5 percent of the gross revenue of the business.
- Heard in Assembly Taxation on April 11.
SB302: Provides an early start for recreational marijuana sales (Sen. Tick Segerblom et al)
The bill creates an early start process for recreational marijuana sales in Nevada by exempting from state prosecution for certain marijuana-related crimes a medical marijuana dispensary that sells marijuana, concentrated cannabis, edibles, marijuana-infused products and related supplies to someone who is 21 years or older during the period of time from the effective date of the bill and the date upon which the Department of Taxation issues the first license to a marijuana establishment for the retail sale of marijuana and marijuana products.
It also prohibits medical marijuana dispensaries from selling products to a person that would exceed the amount decriminalized by Question 2.
The bill also requires the Division of Public and Behavioral Health to adopt regulations to provide for those sales by medical marijuana dispensaries and deems that existing regulations related to medical marijuana establishments apply to sales of retail marijuana in the interim period.
It also eliminates the existing 2 percent excise tax on wholesale sales of marijuana by cultivation facilities and wholesale sales of edible marijuana or marijuana-infused products by production facilities, and increases tax on retail sales of marijuana, edible marijuana products or marijuana-infused products by a medical marijuana dispensary to 5 percent.
It also imposes a 15 percent excise tax on retail sales of recreational marijuana, with two-thirds of the proceeds distributed to the Distributive School Account and one-third distributed to the Local Government Tax Distribution Account to be distributed to the local jurisdiction in which the tax was paid.
- Passed out of Senate Judiciary on April 3 and re-referred to Senate Revenue and Economic Development, where the bill was mentioned on April 6 but has not been heard.