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Washoe County commissioners approve medical marijuana zoning rules for unincorporated areas

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RENO, Nevada — Washoe County on Tuesday night approved rules governing where medical marijuana facilities can set up within unincorporated areas, a first step toward implementing the fledgling industry.

Cities in the county like Reno and Sparks will devise their own guidelines, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported (http://on.rgj.com/1eaydHo ).

Under the ordinances approved by county commissioners, dispensaries for purchasing the drug will be allowed to operate in strip malls, mixed-use areas and sites zoned for commercial use.

Cultivation operations will only be allowed in industrial areas, shopping centers or strip malls. Grow houses must be enclosed buildings that keep marijuana odor from seeping outside.

Commissioners also set restrictions on when dispensaries can be open, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"This is just the first step in the process," Washoe Commissioner Vaughn Hartung said.

Nevada voters approved medical marijuana in 2000, but patients had no way to obtain the drug besides growing it. Last year, the Nevada Legislature approved and Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill setting up a regulatory and taxing structure to make medicinal pot available for purchase at dispensaries.

About 6,800 Nevadans hold medical marijuana cards.

Dispensaries are still months away from opening as local governments weigh whether to allow operations in their jurisdictions and finalize their own rules. The state also is in the process of hiring and training inspectors and staff to oversee regulatory functions.

The next step for Washoe County will be deciding how much to charge for a marijuana industry business license.

"I don't know if a license is truly worth $100,000 or $1,000," Commission Chairman David Humke said.

Commissioner Kitty Jung said the panel wants to ensure that the fee for a business license will help cover any financial burden the medical marijuana industry brings to the county.

"We are going to hit every single point to determine what the eventual cost might be," Jung said. "We want to give a good estimate, with legal backing, about what that license should look like and in a way where we are not going to gouge anybody out of business."


Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com

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