Last Update: May 12, 2014

Nevada Department of Health and Human Services' medical marijuana business regulations now in effect

In 2013, more than a decade after voters approved medical marijuana legislation, the Nevada Legislature enacted a law to allow for safe, regulated access to medical cannabis from businesses. On April 1, the Department of Health and Human Services' Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health put its rules implementing that law into effect. The department will soon regulate up to 66 medical marijuana dispensaries as well cultivators, product manufacturers, and testing labs.  

Implementation of the new law has not come without its challenges. Some communities are resisting the positive changes imposed by the new law. After some initial uncertainty and a short window for applicants following release of its revised zoning rules, Clark County began accepting permits in April and received over 200 applications during an approximately one month period. By contrast, Las Vegas proposed very restrictive rules, and the prospective business community has taken a strong position in opposition. Hopefully, the city and others around the state can develop a set of rules that will be fair and meet the needs of seriously ill patients who should not have to drive outside city limits to obtain a needed medicine. Despite these challenges, the emerging business community 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 18 states that have decriminalized personal use marijuana possession. Two of those 18 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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