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Group Sues State, Washoe County Over Medical Marijuana Licensing Process

A local business group has filed a lawsuit against the State of Nevada and Washoe County for allegedly failing to comply with state law concerning medical marijuana dispensaries.

Washoe Dispensary LLC filed the complaint in the Second Judicial Court of Washoe County. The group says it was ranked 6th out of 11 applicants for a license to operate a dispensary in unincorporated Washoe County.

Washoe County is allowed 10 dispensaries: three in Reno, two in Sparks and five in unincorporated Washoe County. The law also provides that no entity shall have more than 10% of the total dispensary licenses for any jurisdiction.

Washoe Dispensary is challenging the state’s rankings based upon the alleged failure to follow the 10% rule as well as the failure to follow the intent of the law in allow local governments the ultimate decision on licensing.

“The intent of the legislation was to have the state grant provisional licenses to qualified applicants and to allow the local governments the flexibility to make the final determination whether to accept those applicants chosen by the state or to request further applicants from the State’s ranked list,” said Ardea Canepa, attorney for Washoe Dispensary. “The state tied the hands of local governments by not allowing the local government to request further provisional licenses from the State for the next highest rank applicant, effectively removing local government from the process.”

Earlier in the application process, the lawsuit says the state had responded to questions that stated if an applicant met the minimum requirements of the State, it would be ranked and then sent to the appropriate local jurisdiction for final approval. This allowed for each local jurisdiction better control of geographic disbursement to meet the needs of its community

“By not following this practice, Washoe County is slated to have three dispensaries in Incline Village/Crystal Bay, one near Galena High School, and one in Sun Valley. That definitely goes against the idea of geographic disbursement and allowing patients all across Washoe County easy access to this medication,” Canepa said.

“Setting up three dispensaries in Incline Village/Crystal Bay is ridiculous,” said Shane Smith, one of the partners in Washoe Dispensary. “The purpose of this legislation was to allow Nevadans access to medical marijuana, a drug proven to help ease the side effects of chemotherapy, assist in the treatment of PTSD, as well as a host of other medical issues. Having three dispensaries in such close proximity to each other, and to the California state line, seems to indicate the state was either oblivious or catering to the idea of building a medical tourism industry at Tahoe centered around medical marijuana.”

The lawsuit says the Washoe County Commission met and voted last month to move ahead with issuing licenses to the five applicants who received provisional licenses from the State, despite concerns commissioners voiced at the meeting about having more than one dispensary in Incline Village.

“Most of us have, in good faith, invested thousands of dollars to fulfill the state application process and also the County’s special use permit process,” said Smith. “We complied with the process laid out in the law, we expected them to do the same.”

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