Nevada’s XXX-Rated Marijuana Rating System

The window of opportunity to apply for permission from the government to operate a new Medical medical-marijuanaMarijuana Establishment (MME) business in Nevada is now closed for the year – and the games bureaucrats play are about to officially begin!

Hundreds of applications have been submitted to the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH), which will spend the next three months reviewing and rating each for suitability using a point system that absolutely no one, including the Division itself, can adequately explain.

According to the Division, “Applications shall be consistently evaluated and scored…based upon the following criteria and point values…”

That criteria includes rating the financial resources the applicant has (40 points), the experience the applicant has operating an MME business, as well as the educational achievements of the owners (50 points), and the amount of tribute…er, taxes…the applicant has coughed up to the state over the last five years (25 points).

Applicants can conceivably rack up a perfect score total of 250 points.  But here’s the thing…

Each application isn’t an application that you or I envision when we think of the word “application.”

An application is something you fill out to apply for a credit card.  It’s maybe a page or two long.  But I personally know at least a dozen different people applying for separate MME licenses and the applications being submitted are several HUNDRED pages long – some reportedly topping over 1,000.

Indeed, to prepare these extremely detailed and complicated “applications” for bureaucratic review and rating, I’ve heard of companies and law firms charging would-be MME operators more than $100,000 just to write the application!

By contrast, Gary DeMar of Godfather Politics notes that…

“The Constitution of the United States was written on four sheets of parchment. If you count the Preamble and all 27 Amendments (remember there were originally only ten), it comes out to 20 typed pages. If you don’t count the signatures and amendments, you’ll have a document of 11 typed pages.”

Now consider this, and you’ll begin to understand just how messed up the whole thing is…

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 applications have been submitted for an MME license.  And the DPBH has only until November 3, 2014 to complete its review of all of them and issue a rating score for each.  And it appears that each application will be rated on each criterion on a sliding scale.

In other words, the applicant won’t be rated on an either/or basis, meaning you either get 40 points or you get zero points in each category.  Instead, for example, in rating “The likely impact of the proposed medical marijuana establishment on the community in which it is proposed to be located” (20 points), one applicant might get 10 points and another might get 15 and a third could get 20.

In other words, totally subjective…like judging figure skating in the Olympics.  I mean, who’s to say which written description of the “likely impact” of an operator on the community is better than another?

Oh, and with some 400 giant binders containing hundreds of pages of reviewable information, there’s no way only one person will be reviewing each application, which would at least assure “consistent” criteria is used in the subjective evaluation process.  But if Bureaucrat A reviews and scores Application 1 and Bureaucrat B reviews and scores Application 2, you can’t help but have inconsistent scoring.

For example, with 50 points at stake in the category of “demonstrated knowledge or expertise” of the applicant “with respect to the compassionate use of marijuana to treat medical conditions,” what if one of the Division’s reviewers possesses an “anti-California” bias when it comes to MME experience?

Indeed, it is widely speculated that applicants with experience in Arizona MME operations will be preferred over applicants from California because Nevada’s MME law is almost identical to Arizona’s while California is widely considered an anything-goes outlaw.

So does an applicant get extra points for having experience in Arizona?  Or does an applicant get docked points for having experience in California?  And how can the rating process be considered “consistent” knowing that each judge brings to the table a certain bias for each of the rating categories?

“The Russian judge gives Herbal Choice, Inc. just 5 points in Location Convenience!”

Now maybe the Division has a plan for addressing these problems and assuring “consistency” in the rating process, but if it does, you wouldn’t know it from reading its website.

For example, on the “Frequently Asked Questions” page, the question is asked: “What is meant by the ‘source’ of liquid assets in Section 26, Subsection 3(B) of R004-14P?”

And as you can well imagine, Section 26, Subsection 3(B) of R004-14P is critically important to any Vogon’s review!  (see: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

Alas, the Division’s response to such a legitimate question leaves a lot to be desired and, well, doesn’t really answer the question at all.  Here ‘tis…

“Applicants need to provide as much confirmable detail as possible related to how the money was originally obtained.  The Division will not provide advice on how to delineate this information or on whether a source is acceptable or unacceptable.  Decisions in this regard will be made by the Division on a case-by-case basis as applications are reviewed.”

In other words, they’ll make it up as they go along.  And apparently the definition of “source” is kinda like the definition of “pornography.”  The Division’s reviewers will know it when they see it.  Trust them.  They know what they’re doing!

Good grief.

Ditto the category related to the tax component.  The application demands “evidence of the amount of taxes paid to or other beneficial financial contributions made to this state or its political subdivisions…”

Such a stated criterion naturally raises the question as to what constitutes “other beneficial financial contributions.”  The Division’s answer…

“As it relates to ‘other beneficial financial contributions,’ applicants should justify and demonstrate how such contributions were beneficial.  As applications are reviewed the Division will make decisions on a case-by-case basis as to whether a source is acceptable or unacceptable.  The Division will not provide advice on how to delineate this information.”

Lovely.  You fly blind and then, after the fact, the Division will tell you whether you were on course to go where it wants you to go even though you had no idea where they wanted you to go.

Please excuse those applying for an MME license if they want to tell the Legislature that set up this Rube Goldberg process where to go!

Which brings us to this final infuriating aspect of this entire exercise…

What most people don’t know about the review process is that every and any reference in the application that might identify the name of the group making the application, and/or any reference to the actual identities of the individuals who will own and operate the proposed MME business, had to be redacted.

Apparently it is believed that blacking out any identifiable information from the application will assure an objective review by the Division’s reviewers.  But here are two big problems with this…

1.)  In probably most, if not all, of the applications, the proposed business owners didn’t actually write the application.  Because of the overly (and stupidly) bureaucratic nature of the process, they were forced to hire an MME “application expert” to do it for them; someone well-versed in crossing “t’s” and dotting “i’s”.

Now as anyone in the private sector will tell you, the ability to pay someone to fill out a flawless government form does not necessarily mean the individual or group actually knows how to run a business, let alone a marijuana business.

2.)  The government bureaucrats being handed the authority and responsibility of reviewing these third-party-written applications likely have little to no experience running a business themselves, let alone a marijuana business.

In other words, this is not a peer review.  This is more like me judging an art show.  Trust me; it wouldn’t be pretty.  Dogs Playing Poker would win every time!

Folks, even if you don’t support medical marijuana, it’s here; it’s the law.  And the system the Nevada Legislature and the Department of Health and Human Services has put in place to implement the law is pretty close to obscene.

At the very least, we should ask why oversight and approval of the “MEDICAL” marijuana industry wasn’t put under the authority of the Nevada State Board of MEDICAL Examiners, which requires that six of the nine members “be persons licensed to practice medicine in this state, are actually engaged in the practice of medicine in this state and have resided and practiced medicine in this state for at least five years preceding their respective appointments.”

As for evaluating whether or not an applicant has sufficient business experience to successfully operate a medical marijuana business, what business is that of the government in the first place – even if the inexperienced bureaucrats evaluating the applicants’ business experience had any business experience of their own?

The government should NOT be picking winners and losers before the doors are even open.  That’s for the free market to decide!

Look, I know this is controversial and many of you will disagree with me vehemently on it.  However, as long as someone is able to go out and legally buy and consume, at their own risk, an unlimited amount of Jack Daniels or Alien Tequila, they should be allowed to do the same for cannabis products – no prescription necessary for the buyer and no ridiculously subjective application process for the seller.

Let’s hope the Legislature is wise enough to listen to Sen. Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) and fix this problem in the next session.  But don’t bet the farm on it.

Wisdom and common sense – unlike music and passion at the Copa  – are always in short supply when the Gang of 63 convenes.