New Bill for Medical Marijuana in Nevada
Medical marijuana patients in Nevada won’t have to rely on their green thumbs much longer. Legislation to allow retail dispensaries, passed by the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval in June, took effect early in July. That means the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services has started drafting the rules and regulations that will guide dispensaries once they open their doors. That’s expected to happen sometime next spring, according to department officials.
This new law makes Nevada one of 13 states with medical marijuana that now allow dispensaries to sell it to patients. The Oregon House of Representatives approved dispensaries in July, and that legislation awaits the signature of Gov. John Kitzhaber. Nevada expects as many as 40 dispensaries will open next year. Patients, who have been able to use medical marijuana for the last 13 years, will be able to buy it from retail outlets for the first time rather than having to grow their own supply.Dispensaries provide many benefits to patients. They allow them to obtain weed without enduring the difficulties of growing. They divert those who simply can’t grow away from the black market. And they help reduce the stigma associated with buying pot for a medical condition.
State officials are looking to Colorado and Arizona for guidance. Both those states currently allow medical marijuana patients to buy from dispensaries, though Colorado is moving toward a full retail model, with legalized recreational cannabis.
The Department of Health and Human Services will work on the rules for the next few months, then send the first draft to the Legislative Counsel Bureau for fine-tuning. The Nevada Board of Health will then adopt it and enact it.Workshops are being scheduled for public input once the rules take shape. Officials said they hope to take dispensary applications by April 2014, with the first shop opening in May.Nevada, with nearly 4,000 patients, was one of the earlier states to legalize medical pot. Voters there approved it in a referendum in 2000, but like most states that initially gave the green light to weed, they didn’t make it possible for patients to buy it.
State lawmakers said they expect the number of patients who use medical marijuana to rise substantially once dispensaries arrive. The process of becoming a certified patient is long and expensive: One company that secures medical marijuana cards charges $545 per patient – including $200 in state fees and the cost of the doctor’s diagnosis.
Patients must register with the state and undergo fingerprinting and criminal background checks. With some exceptions, they will also have to stop growing once the dispensaries open. Patients who live outside a 25 mile radius of any dispensary may continue to grow, as may those who need a strain that isn’t provided by a local dispensary.Patients who beat a July 1 deadline for registering with the state will be allowed to grow for the next two years. Those who missed the deadline may only grow until dispensaries open for business.