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Segerblom: Nevada to make bundle on medical marijuana

Future pot dispensary owners in Nevada are in a perfect position to make millions of dollars because the state is the only one in the country that plans to accept out-of-state medical marijuana cards, state Sen. Tick Segerblom told a 200-plus crowd Saturday.

After receiving a standing ovation at a National Cannabis Industry Association symposium for helping to pass a law legalizing such dispensaries, the Las Vegas Democrat said he expects the medical marijuana business to be a boon not only for state coffers but also for the 40 operators who will be able to sell medical pot to anybody who holds a card from another state.

At last tally 19 states had legalized medical marijuana — from Colorado to Oregon and Washington to Connecticut, Vermont and Delaware.

“And with tourism what it is in Las Vegas, with the millions of people who visit here, I don’t need to tell you how profitable it can be,” said Segerblom, who worked for more than a decade to get the law passed. “And Nevada needs the money. It’s very short on revenue. But we’re not going to become a Venice Beach. Nevada has a thorough and fair bill, and we’re going to regulate this industry the right way.”

Responding to a question about whether Las Vegas hotels and casinos will ban medical marijuana, Segerblom said he hopes that they will accept it.

Other states have wrestled with the effects of secondhand marijuana smoke. Colorado is trying to figure out how to separate the medical marijuana smoking populace from everyday tourists who just want to visit Rocky Mountain National Park with their children without breathing skunky smoke from the adjacent hotel room.

“I would think that our hotels and casinos would embrace it,” Segerblom said. “They’re already very smoker friendly.”

The one-day symposium at the Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel drew experts and dispensary operators from across the country. A few of the attendees have done well for themselves but not without first having to fight the federal government along the way. That includes Steve DeAngelo, the symposium’s keynote speaker who operates the Oakland, Calif.-based Harborside Health Center.

With more than 100,000 medical marijuana patients, DeAngelo’s dispensary is still fighting to stay open amid a federal government crackdown that’s so controversial that the city of Oakland has come to DeAngelo’s aid to protect the interest of his patients.

“The future is an inherently uncertain thing, but the change to regulate medical marijuana across the country is in­evitable,” he told the audience. “The wine is out of the bottle and it ain’t going back in. But we have to remember to hold high standards for ourselves. We have to remember that we’re not like any other business. Every other business is not illegal.”

It’s a touchy subject, the tug of war between states and the federal government in a country where there have been 750,000 arrests for marijuana possession every year, panelists at the symposium noted.

And although polls have shown that most people have no problem with legalizing medical pot, that doesn’t mean they approve of it morally, DeAngelo said.

He urged the crowd to get the word out that there are real patients amid the recreational users, and that the weed has been known to boost appetites for AIDS and cancer patients, relieve pain among scoliosis and multiple sclerosis patients, even alleviate everyday anxiety and stress.

And yet the “jokes about ‘the munchies’ and Doritos” are still the norm rather than the exception at many a planning commission meeting where local land usage has had to be changed to make way for the next pot dispensary, said Robert Jacobs, owner of Peace in Medicine, a pot dispensary in Sebastopol, a small city in Marin County in Northern California.

His advice to future operators: Join the local Rotary Club, open up the wallet and contribute to political campaigns, and dress appropriately.

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Photos by Ron Eland/Boulder City Review

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