Marijuana advocacy in Nevada has a friend in State Senator Richard S. “Tick” Segerblom. A fourth-generation representative in Nevada, he currently represents Senate District 3. Most recently, the former attorney made news with Senate Bill 372, legislation the media touted as a “pot for pets” bill. But there is far more to said bill, as there is to Sen. Segerblom himself, as well as the future of marijuana in the Silver State.
The journey towards an interest in marijuana prohibition began for Segerblom back in the 1960s. “I remember how free love and marijuana and everything—we thought those things were going to happen,” Segerblom says. “And then Reagan got elected governor of California and everything just went backwards. Now, I think finally society is starting to realize they spent almost 60 years going in the wrong direction and it’s time to go back.”
He adds that while no substance or drug is 100 percent safe, marijuana is the least harmful one there is, even less so than alcohol. “A lot of people enjoy [marijuana], it has health benefits and to criminalize it and prosecute people—particularly people of color—is wrong. If we can rectify that, then I’m a happy camper.”
Segerblom believes the “War on Drugs” has failed. “We lost and we might as well deal with it and decriminalize most drugs, legalize a lot of them and then deal with the consequences,” he says. “We have rehabilitation available. Tax the drugs, tax the alcohol, than provide rehabilitation services to people who can’t handle it. But get away from putting people in jail who sold it, they used it, they had trouble because of their addiction. It destroyed a whole generation of people for no good reason. These are mental health issues, not criminal issues.”
Looking at the state of marijuana in Nevada, it was unfortunate that Senate Bill 372 died in committee earlier this year. Key components tied into the bill (in addition to medical cannabis for ailing pets) were needed, including transfer of ownership. “It involves a five-mile rule where dispensaries can move within five miles,” Segerblom says. “It also involves keeping home grown alive for another two years, keeping reciprocity provisions for another couple of years, there’s a lot of little technical things.”
With regard to transferability of the medical marijuana license, Segerblom believes he will be able to address that issue. “We’re working on an amendment to one of the existing bills that deals with medical marijuana and I’m optimistic that will be approved.”
Senate Bill 372 also brought up the issue of “seed to sale” software solutions. This places a restriction on dispensaries in Clark County where they’re only permitted to purchase medical marijuana from cultivation and processing facilities also within Clark County, which could potentially drive up the cost to patients. “I have lots of concerns about the cost and that’s why we have Bill 276, which hopefully brings more dispensaries to Nevada,” says Segerblom. “But as far as the technical issue where Clark County said you can’t purchase marijuana from outside of Clark County to sell in Clark County, I’m not sure if we’re able to address that issue. I think it’s actually unconstitutional.” He adds that unfortunately with all the given issues that need to be addressed, it’s not a top priority.
Another issue of concern to patients is the possibly of being charged with a DUI if they’ve medicated that day or even a few days prior. Segerblom says he feels bad about that, but currently they won’t be able to address it. “The Democrats lost control of the legislature and a lot of those issues went up in smoke, so to speak.”
In regards to education and training programs, Segerblom feels the responsibility lies on the dispensaries themselves, not a requirement by the government. “I think most dispensaries will have their own training programs as far as teaching budtenders to tell customers what the products do,” Segerblom says. “I’m not sure those employees need to be trained by the state.”
One question many patients have is that if reasonable accommodations are being made for medical marijuana patients, for instance being allowed to use a CBD-only medication at work. “It’s a question that a lot of employers feel they have to do that already,” Segerblom says. “Again, that’s just a gray area which we hope to make black and white.”
On a more positive front, Segerblom currently has a related bill that would legalize the growing of hemp. SB305, which Segerblom sponsored, initially was written to create regulations for an industrial hemp industry in the state. However, after many amendments inserted by both Assembly and Senate committees over the last several weeks, the bill has been limited to authorizing an institution of higher education or the State Department of Agriculture to grow or cultivate industrial hemp for purposes of research.
More positive strides forward include Segerblom’s recent trip to Colorado to investigate the marijuana business in that state. “It’s a very successful business,” he says of recreational marijuana industry in Colorado. “It’s coming to Nevada, so get ready.”
In fact, recreational marijuana will appear on the Nevada ballot in 2016. “It’s guaranteed. We got the 100 and some thousand signatures to get it on the ballot, the legislature did not act within 40 days, so it’s going to be there,” Segerblom says. “I think it’s going to increase the turnouts. The people that show up to vote for marijuana will probably vote for the Democratic candidate for president.” He adds, “No one can stop it at this point.”
Well, almost no one. In the event a Republican president takes office, there are concerns of progress reversal. “Well, if it was up to the Republicans, they would do it and roll back the clock,” Segerblom says.
But the reality is the cat is out of the bag. “I don’t see how they’re going to put it back. This thing has gone so far and become so popular—especially once it starts to raise money and put taxes in the state coffers, to take that away I think would be very difficult. I do think there’s some presidential candidates that are much more positive for the growth of marijuana and bylaws.”
Involvement and showing up at the polls next November is key for supporters of medical marijuana, and now recreational marijuana. “If we can pass recreational, that will really change Nevada, in my opinion,” Segerblom says. “It’s perfect for our current industry. It will also get away from this idea the police are out there to put everybody in jail and this vicious cycle where cops bust you, your house, sell the house, use the money for SWAT armor to go bust another house.
“We just need to move forward and recognize this drug is better than alcohol as far as drugs go and deal with the fallout, but don’t put people in jail or pay cops to bust people because they’re using marijuana.”