Medical marijuana: Tahoe community shares concerns with dispensary plans | SierraSun.com

Medical marijuana: Tahoe community shares concerns with dispensary plans

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — While the number of medical marijuana dispensaries proposed for Incline Village/Crystal Bay has decreased, concerns remain — even among residents who support such an establishment coming to the community.

For instance, while Incline resident Bill Deters favors a dispensary so those with legitimate medical needs have nearby access to the drug, he is not in favor of the proposed 877 Tahoe Blvd. location.

"Context is everything," Deters said. "If the context is truly medical, I don't have any problem with that at all, but if there is any implied context that this is recreational for young people, I have a problem with it."

For that reason, Deters prefers the dispensary be near medical offices rather than its slated location near the Susie Scoops ice cream and Village Toys shops, where youth are likely to be present.

“If we can go to Reno to shop at Costco or use the airport, we can go there to get our medicine.”John RedfernDrug Free Incline

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The building at 877 Tahoe Blvd. is owned by NuLeaf Incline Dispensary which was issued a provisional license by the state of Nevada in 2014 for the business at that site.

Requirements for medical marijuana establishments under state law include not being located within 1,000 feet of a public or private school or 300 feet of a daycare center, public park, playground, public swimming pool, religious worship structure or facility with the primary purpose of providing recreational services to children and adolescents.

Danger of marijuana?

Despite NuLeaf's location off Highway 28 meeting the state's criteria, public concerns persist.

"In a small community such as Incline Village, a pot dispensary will completely transform the culture surrounding pot use and teach kids that there is no harm in smoking a little weed," Incline resident Sara Shorin wrote in a letter to a NuLeaf representative. " … Pot will be viewed as another Tahoe recreational activity and no big deal, and way too accessible. … It will put kids in social proximity to other risk takers, and increase the probability that other, more hardcore drugs will be tried."

An email request for comment from NuLeaf was not immediately returned for this story, nor were additional efforts made Wednesday afternoon by phone.

"This is probably not the most evil drug out there," said Shane Johnson, an Incline Village resident who holds a medical degree and is an owner in Silver State Trading, a legal wholesale medical cannabis business based in Sparks. "I would put alcohol way up at the top of that list in terms of damage to our society. … If there is a gateway drug in this country, it is alcohol — period."

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 32 percent of tobacco users, 23 percent of heroin users, 17 percent of cocaine users and 15 percent of alcohol drinkers become dependent, whereas 9 percent of marijuana users develop dependence.

"I agree that (marijuana) can absolutely be abused," Johnson said. "A lot of things can be abused. Soda pop can be abused. McDonald's hamburgers can be abused, and I'm not trying to make light of that. … (But) I do believe firmly that there are medical benefits."

Marijuana benefits include relieving pain, seizures, nausea and vomiting, inflammation and anxiety, according to medical research.

Go elsewhere?

Those against a dispensary in Incline Village argue that people who need the drug for medical reasons can travel elsewhere to secure it.

"There are (medical marijuana opportunities) as close as Truckee and South Lake Tahoe," said Incline Village resident John Redfern, a spokesperson for the grassroots group Drug Free Incline, which has between 200 and 400 members. "There are also several operating in the Reno/Sparks area. Most, if not all, of these facilities will deliver. If we can go to Reno to shop at Costco or use the airport, we can go there to get our medicine."

Moreover, others question the viability of such a business in Incline, with its small population in comparison to nearby cities of Reno and Carson City.

"On the (patient) level, I am supportive of it, but skeptical of the business case," Johnson said. "I don't know if the math works on patient numbers. But if a business owner is willing to take the business risk of putting a dispensary in Incline, I believe there should be one."

According to regulations, medical marijuana may only be sold or given to patients or caregivers with a valid state-issued medical marijuana registry identification card.

As of December 2015, there are 13,561 Nevadans who are cardholders, of which 2,235 are in Washoe County, according to the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health. The number of cardholders in Incline is not listed.

"It's just not necessary, needed or wanted," said Incline resident Brian Hoff, a member of Drug Free Incline. "There's not enough volume. … They are better off going elsewhere."

Moving Forward

In 2015, efforts continued to bring three dispensaries to Incline/Crystal Bay; by the turn of the year, however, the 877 Tahoe Blvd. remained the only one with legitimate momentum.

For the dispensary to become operational, additional steps remain, said Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler, whose district represents Incline/Crystal Bay.

NuLeaf submitted its Washoe County medical marijuana establishment business license application on Feb. 13, 2015, said Kevin Schiller, the county's assistant manager. However, the application is still pending review.

Should all reviewing agencies approve the application and issue appropriate permits, then the MME business license will be issued by county staff, he said.

Meanwhile, the dispensary originally proposed at 754 Mays Blvd., No. 12, in the Village Center by Nevada Organix remains under review, Schiller said, amid community concerns regarding the MME's location and proximity to adjacent businesses within the center.

According to Nevada law, such a business must be located in a separate, freestanding building. This is due to security concerns, Berkbigler said.

As for the other dispensary proposed at 10 Stateline Road in Crystal Bay by Tryke Companies Reno, the applicant in early October 2015 applied to the state of Nevada for relocation to Sun Valley.

More information

Online: Visit bit.ly/1PYz5Ou to learn about the Medical Marijuana Establishment (MME) licensing process in Washoe County. There, you can download proposed location maps; see images of current dispensaries in Reno-Sparks and Las Vegas; view an extended FAQ list; and more.

And to come: Look for more to this story in the coming weeks to SierraSun.com.