Nevada

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Nevada voters twice approved a constitutional amendment allowing the use of medical marijuana, most recently in November 2000 (with 65% of the vote). The amendment required the legislature to create implementing legislation for licensing patients and caregivers, which the legislature did in 2001 with A.B. 453, which established the states medical marijuana registry program. A.B. 453 originally intended for the state to grow and distribute medical marijuana to patients who are either unable or unwilling to grow their own. That provision was dropped, however, and the bill was amended to resemble Oregon's law.

Enacted after the U.S. Supreme Courts May 2001 ruling on medical marijuana in U.S. v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, the preamble of A.B. 453 says in its preamble that "the State of Nevada as a sovereign state has the duty to carry out the will of the people of this state and to regulate the health, medical practices and well-being of those people in a manner that respects their personal decisions concerning the relief of suffering through the medical use of marijuana."

Nevada's law is arguably the nations strictest, with a requirement that patients undergo a background check to ensure that they have no prior convictions for distributing drugs. The program requires that patients provide a fingerprint card to aid in the background check.

Once patients are approved, they are issued a 30-day temporary certificate, which affords them legal protection and allows them to obtain a one-year photo identification card from one of five Department of Motor Vehicles offices across the state. Patients who fail to register with the program — but are otherwise in compliance with the law — are allowed to argue at trial that they had a medical need to use marijuana.

A.B. 453 also requires the state Department of Agriculture to work aggressively to obtain federal approval for a distribution program for marijuana and marijuana seeds and requires the University of Nevada School of Medicine to seek, in conjunction with the state Agriculture Department, federal approval for a research project into the medical uses of marijuana. Apparently, no work has been done to carry out either of these directives.

In 2003, the legislature passed a bill that slightly amended the medical marijuana law. A.B. 130, introduced on behalf of the Nevada Department of Agriculture, allows osteopathic physicians to qualify as "attending physicians" for the medical marijuana program. This is good for patients in Nevada because it expands the scope of those who may receive legal protection for using medical marijuana. In 2005, the legislature passed a bill that would allow the Department of Agriculture to revoke the registry identification card of a participant in the states medical marijuana program who has been convicted of drug trafficking or who has provided false information on his or her application.

The program is running smoothly, with no signs of fraud or abuse. The registry cards show a phone number that police can call if they have any questions, and the program has received only a couple of calls from law enforcement officers. No registry cards have been revoked.

Demographically, Nevada's medical marijuana patients resemble those in other states. The average age of registered patients is 49, with a range of ages from 20 to 86 years old. The diseases and conditions reported by registered medical marijuana patients are provided in the chart at the end of this section.

Nevada's registry program is the only one in the nation that does not charge patients an application or registry fee. The legislature and governor failed to provide any money for the programs operation, and the program is operated using general funds from the state Department of Agriculture, which oversees the registry. Thus far, there have been no problems related to the programs lack of dedicated funding.

Symptoms Reported By Patients in Nevada's Medical Marijuana Registry Program (as of June 1, 2002)

Disease or Condition

Number reported*

Severe Pain

109

Muscle Spasms

50

Severe Nausea

44

HIV / AIDS

27

Cachexia

24

Glaucoma

9

Cancer

8

Seizures

* Numbers total more than the 165 registered (as of 2002) because many patients report multiple symptoms.

* Numbers total more than the 165 registered (as of 2002) because many patients report multiple symptoms.

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