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Nevada elected officials stood amid glass-shelved displays of marijuana last week to tell the federal government to keep its hands off the state’s legal cannabis industry.
Rep. Dina Titus and state Sens. Tick Segerblom and Aaron Ford were at the Apothecary Shoppe marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas, responding to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ removal of Obama-era protections for marijuana operations in states, like Nevada, where it is legal.
The action “undermines Nevada’s $622 million industry, threatens nearly $1 billion in new investments, and jeopardizes thousands of new jobs and more than $60 million in tax revenue for the state,” Titus said.
Dr. Nick Spirtos, an expert in gynecologic oncology and co-owner of the dispensary, also spoke. He said the government should be addressing the opioid epidemic instead of going after the marijuana industry.
Spirtos echoed that statement when he talked to KNPR's State of Nevada.
"Instead of looking at a highly regulated industry such as the one that was constructed in Nevada, perhaps the attention and federal dollars should be better spent on the importation and manufacture of illegal and illicit opiates as well as the illegal and illicit market of marijuana," he said.
Both recreational and medicinal marijuana is available in Nevada, where voters twice approved statewide marijuana legalization measures. The drug remains illegal under federal law.
Spirtos said while there are concerns that the federal government could crack down on the industry, pursuing legalized marijuana is worth it because of the impact the drug could have on pain management.
"We are looking to replace opiates with a cannabis product," he said, "We've successfully in 20 out of 22 patients reduced their opioid intake by greater than 50 percent."
And Spirtos said unlike opioids, there has not been one documented case of someone dying from a marijuana overdose.
Besides the impact on his efforts to find a better way to treat pain, Spirtos has a financial stake in recreational marijuana.
He said the profit margins on marijuana is very slim because of the overhead to set up a dispensary and the taxes that have to be paid.
Since no one is sure what the federal government is going to do in the wake of Attorney General Session's announcement and no one is entirely sure what lawmakers could do to stop a crackdown, Spirtos said they're taking a wait-and-see approach.
"We're going to continue to conduct business in a very professional way with care being given to our medical patients as well as those in the retail side and hopefully by demonstrating the legitimacy of this business that the federal government will realize that this is a business that they should be paying attention to, taxing it and giving us tax relief if you will and move with the spirit that is crossing this country," Spirtos said.
Dr. Nick Spirtos, marijuana dispensary co-owner