Dead MMJ Bill in Nevada Holds Lesson for Industry

A bill in Nevada aimed at adjusting the state’s medical marijuana program has died a quite death in the legislature. The bill had been held up in committee and the time limit expired before the Committee on Health and Human Services could give it a hearing.

If passed, the bill would have made it possible to transfer marijuana business licenses, make the licensing process more transparent, and make it easier for marijuana businesses to change locations. Although reasonable in scope, the bill never gained traction in the legislature, leaving outside observers to ask why.

The answer to that question is that the bill had become mired in irrelevancy and bad humor because of a certain provision in the bill that allowed pets to use medical marijuana with a vet’s approval. For weeks, the news was smattered with headlines like “Pots for pets?!” and other alliterative puns.

Wherever he went, bill sponsor Sen. Tick Segerblom was forced to clarify the purpose of his bill. “Let me clarify: this is not a bill about giving marijuana to pets. It’s a huge bill to go with our current medical marijuana law,” Segerblom told Vice News. “I was the author of that two years ago. This bill addresses lots of issues that have come up.”

Sadly for Segerblom, people were more interested in stoned pets than Nevada’s medical marijuana system.

As much as we would like to pretend that the marijuana industry is enjoying newfound legitimacy; there is still a perception problem with marijuana and the public at large. Despite the fact that marijuana is a billion dollar industry, people still see Cheech and Chong and that can hurt the industry, not only at the ballot box, but in the legislature.

When you have politicians like Gov. Chris Christie calling marijuana tax revenue “blood money,” that’s a problem. With such viewpoints floating around, it stymies all hope of meaningful reform.

There is a lesson in Segerblom’s bill that the marijuana industry, and community, needs to learn: appearances matter. An otherwise reasonable bill died in the legislature because people couldn’t stop focusing on a small provision about pets; and it could happen again.

In the coming years, there will be a flurry of marijuana reform bills hitting state legislatures, many of which will be influenced by community and industry insiders. It is the responsibility of the industry to use its limited influence to guide specific, laser-focused, legislation on marijuana reform; otherwise, more promising bills, like Segerblom’s, will be drowned in a sea of cheap jokes.

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