Last Update: August 14, 2014
Implementation of Nevada’s improved medical marijuana program underway
In 2013, more than a decade after voters approved a medical marijuana initiative, the Nevada Legislature finally allowed for safe, regulated access to medical cannabis, as voters had intended. In addition to allowing medical cannabis dispensaries, the revised law provides protections for some out-of-state patients and increases cultivation and possession limits. Unfortunately, however, it will also prohibit some patients from growing their own medicine.
On April 1, the state's health department finalized the program's rules. The department will soon regulate up to 66 medical marijuana dispensaries as well cultivators, product manufacturers, and testing labs. Its open application period runs from August 5 through August 18. Next, the division will announce which businesses are provisionally approved in November, at which point applicants will work to get local permits and licenses.
Several cities and counties are already hard at work implementing local rules. Clark County began accepting permits in April and received over 200 applications during an approximately one-month period. In Las Vegas, which saw much more restrictive rules, 63 groups applied, two of which dropped out. Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County have issued letters for more than two dozen applicants, saying they comply with local zoning rules. This emerging business opportunity has attracted several high-profile business interests, including a judge, resort owners, politicians, and restauranteurs.
While some cities lag behind, the Nevada Supreme Court is taking action to adapt to the new law. It recently amended its ethics rules to clearly allow lawyers to counsel clients on the state’s medical marijuana laws.
Learn about Nevada's marijuana laws
Nevada is one of the 19 states that have decriminalized personal use marijuana possession. Two of those 19 states, Washington and Colorado, have legalized, taxed, and regulated marijuana for adults 21 and older.
Although Nevada is considered a “decriminalization” state, simple possession of marijuana can still be treated harshly. First offense possession of up to an ounce is punishable by a $600 fine instead of jail time, but it remains a misdemeanor. The individual is subject to arrest and drug addiction screening that could lead to mandatory treatment and rehabilitation, and a criminal conviction can lead to a lifetime of discrimination which can limit job opportunities and housing options. A second offense carries a $1,000 fine and drug addiction screening. The penalties for third and fourth offenses continue to worsen. Incredibly, possession of two ounces could land a Nevadan in jail for four years.
There were still over 8,500 marijuana-related arrests in Nevada in 2012, and 85% of them were for marijuana possession. That same year, nearly 90% of reported burglaries, including home invasions, and over 92% of all motor vehicle thefts went unsolved. Law enforcement should stop wasting time and resources on failed marijuana prohibition policies, particularly when most Americans now agree marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.
Please be sure to ask your legislators legalize marijuana for adults' use and to regulate it like alcohol.
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