Three years after legalizing medicinal marijuana, the Silver State is still working out the kinks when it comes to locals and their medical marijuana cards.
“The process today is too complicated, we are using outdated methods,” said Senator Tick Segerblom, D-Nevada. “We have done better with incorporating dispensaries but failed to update the card process.”
Segerblom has been one of the major power players behind marijuana legalization in Nevada. The senator wrote the law that allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Nevada. But Segerblom says a change in the process of obtaining a medical card is critical.
“When the process was made in the early 2000’s, medicinal marijuana wasn’t as nearly as recognized as it is today,” Segerblom said. “Attitudes have changed since then at it is becoming more known as a safe and effective medication.”
While sex and booze are always on the menu, access to medicinal marijuana involves a lot of paperwork and a lot of waiting. For many Las Vegans, the wait is too long.
The Nevada Card Process
The road to obtaining a medical card begins with a $25 registry request from the Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH). The form must include a notarized statement from a Nevada Licensed Physician to justify the recommendation for said patient.
Once the DPBH verifies the form and sends it back to you, the state will run a background check. Any past conviction selling a controlled substance results in an automatic disqualification.
Applicants must then pay $20 for fingerprinting and $75 for the card application packet. The Division of Health will make the final decision within 30 days after receiving your completed packet.
If you pass the background check, the journey will lead you to a place very few enjoy–the Department of Motor Vehicles. After a long wait in line, you pay $13.25 to a government worker, and you can finally obtain your card. The total cost for a medical marijuana card in Nevada can range anywhere from $300 to $400.
The entire process can take weeks, sometimes months. And for some local patients, that is just too long.
Nick Valentino still uses his California medical card, though he’s lived in Nevada for two years now. He suffers from migraines and insomnia and said that cannabis is the only form of medication he trusts. “It works better than the prescription drugs I’ve tried in the past and I use it only when needed.” Valentino recalls having to use prescription drugs nightly just to get a good night’s rest but feeling drowsy in the mornings. He has not experienced any adverse effects from marijuana use.
Nevada’s system was set up with the intentions to regulate the cultivation of marijuana so that patients can obtain a medication that is safe, clean, and honest. Patients deserve complete confidence in the product prescribed to them.
Jim Ferrence, a spokesperson for Euphoria Wellness, said the dispensary sees more tourists than locals. Tourists who have cards from their home state, are free to use their card in Nevada to purchase cannabis. Ferrence said that out of the 40 million tourists who visit Nevada each year, at least 20 thousand of those visitors have a medical card from a different state.
According to Ferrence, the absence of Nevadans in dispensaries can be explained by another issue. “There’s no doubt that the hoops a person has to go through to get their card in a Nevada, plus the cost is a deterrent,” Ferrence said. “When you compare that to the access one can get by using an illegal delivery service to get medication without a card, it’s an easy decision for a lot of people.”
Opening a dispensary in Nevada costs money. With a price tag of $250,000 just to apply, the temptation to enter the black market can be attractive to retailers and consumers. These illegal services face heavy fines and serious charges that can include multiple felonies, drug trafficking, and possession.
With all of the consequences attached to disobeying the law, Ferrence said that it’s worth going through the trouble of getting a card, especially if customers want to know what they’re buying.
“There’s no testing,” Ferrence said about the black market. “You don’t know if you’re getting pesticides or mold, and those are major things … for us, the biggest sales point, you will know what is and isn’t in there.”
Ferrence said that a black market will always exist, but he has high hopes that 2017 can bring some changes to help combat the illegal sale of products on the street. “If recreational passes in November, it will only leave the lowest level, lowest priced cannabis,” Ferrence said. “It will put the foot traffic into the dispensaries very near to the Strip and the ability to deliver to those who aren’t patients. They’re just customers, and that market will explode if recreational use passes.”