Nevada Welcomes Out-of-State Patients

Nevada Welcomes Out-of-State Patients

Despite the passage of 15 years since the state passed its medical cannabis law, Nevada finally has two dispensaries — Silver State Relief in Reno and Euphoria Wellness in Las Vegas — to serve patients.

However, Nevada offers something that many other states don’t: Up to 2.5 ounces of medical cannabis to patients visiting from out-of-state.

Those with a valid medical card, a government-issued ID, and who sign an affidavit affirming they are legally permitted to possess and consume medical cannabis in their home state. Based on Las Vegas’ huge tourism business (more than 41 million people visited Sin City in 2014 alone), it makes sense that the state would welcome medical patients from outside its borders.

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Federal Scrutiny

Unfortunately, doing so puts the state under more scrutiny with the federal government. One of the primary roles of the feds is to govern interstate commerce, including illegal activities that cross state borders. If the DEA suspects that cannabis is finding its way across the border, raids and federal interference may result.

In Arizona, for example, patients from out-of-state are able to possess medical cannabis, but are not permitted to purchase it at any of the state’s dispensaries.

Nevada Senator Tick Segerblom sponsored the medical legalization bill. He said the state is the “gold standard” of medical cannabis programs and that the reaction from the public has been positive so far. It’s an effort to look at the glass half full after a ridiculously long 15-year wait by the state’s patients. Segerblom gave the media a quote not often heard out of the mouth of a politician:

“Let’s regulate it, let’s tax it. We’re known as the place you go to do things that you can’t do elsewhere, so why not smoke a little pot, too?”

Some Hotels, No Casinos

Those looking to the future with an eye to purchasing their medical cannabis at a casino dispensary, however, may be disappointed. Nevada’s Gaming Control Board in May 2014 alerted licensees that they probably won’t be getting their medical cannabis from a casino anytime soon.

“Unless the federal law is changed, the Board does not believe investment or any other involvement in a medical marijuana facility or establishment by a person who has received a gaming approval or has applied for a gaming approval is consistent with the effective regulation of gaming.”

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Many tourists may have to engage in a bit of stealth to consume medical cannabis in their hotel, however. Smoking cannabis in public is illegal in Nevada — even for patients. But Sergeant Chuck Callaway, director of intergovernmental services for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, suggests that patients should consider using vaporizers in public, as long as no marijuana odor is emitted.

Many businesses in the hospitality sector prohibit the consumption of cannabis on their grounds. According to the Las Vegas police, the most appropriate place for patients to consume their medicine is in hotels that allow it. Some hotels have begun allowing their guests to consume cannabis on the terrace of their room, as long as the odor doesn’t disturb other guests. Casinos, however, will be off limits — unless a casino specifically allows it — in which case the cops will butt out.

Until “smoking clubs” and other venues for vaping or smoking emerge, patients will run the risk of being booted from their hotel when they try to relax with their medicine in the comfort of their room.

DUI: Take a Cab

Unfortunately, Nevada has a zero-tolerance policy in terms of the presence of cannabis metabolites in a driver’s blood. Patients who consume are advised to take a cab or a limo to avoid being convicted of DUI in the state.

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While it’s nice to see Nevada finally provide safe access to cannabis medicine to both its citizens and tourists, patients should be careful to avoid getting kicked out of their hotel, arrested for DUI, or consuming in public when on vacation. However, sick patients who need their medicine when on vacation, and maybe some slots or blackjack while they’re at it, are in business.

If Nevada legalizes recreational cannabis next year (it’s a ballot issue for November 2016), issues like where cannabis users can consume the herb will become a more heated topic.

First Cannabis Dispensary Opens in Las Vegas

First Cannabis Dispensary Opens in Las Vegas

New cultivation facility and dispensary openings are becoming a more common occurrence, with even traditionally conservative states like Illinois, Delaware, and Maryland getting into the game following passage of medical cannabis laws intended to help patients.

On Monday, August 24, Euphoria Wellness opened in the southwest valley of Las Vegas. The dispensary hosted 200 pre-registered patients — all of whom had prescriptions from their doctors — and a long line of customers outside its location. Euphoria Wellness is the first dispensary to open in Las Vegas and the second in the state of Nevada (following Silver State Relief, which opened in July in Sparks, Nevada, just east of Reno).

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Unfortunately, the dispensary currently offers only six strains, but hopes to stock more than 25 strains after business ramps up and supplies increase. Although currently not available, edibles like candy and baked goods and concentrates such as oil (BHO) and tinctures will also be available to patients, beginning in October.

Lack of Supply

Euphoria Wellness was staffed and ready to open its doors months ago, but didn’t have sufficient product. Patients like Linda Yost, a stomach cancer patient who battles pain and nausea with cannabis, think it was worth the wait. Said Yost:

“I am no longer throwing up, I have my will to live again and life is good.”

One early customer purchased a half ounce of two strains, Kosher Kush and Cheese, for $225. Due to supply constraints, half an ounce is currently the purchase limit for patients. The dispensary sells grams for $17 and ounces top out at $336. While more expensive than most dispensaries in Colorado, California, and Oregon, these prices are lower than Delaware (where an ounce costs patients about $400-450) and New Jersey (which sells ounces for $500-550).

Long Time Coming

When interviewed, many patients complained of the long wait period between passage of Nevada’s medical cannabis law in 2000 and today, when they are finally — 15 years later — able to legally and safely obtain medicine from a licensed dispensary. Until now, the only way in which patients have been able to obtain medicine is by growing it themselves or turning to the black market.

David Cobbett, who uses medical cannabis to treat back pain, said he prefers marijuana because the narcotics prescribed by doctors carried negative side effects. “I sat in a wheelchair and did nothing,” he said. After four years of having a medical marijuana card, Cobbett is finally able to safely access tested and quality-assured cannabis medicine in a fully legal manner.

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After passage, literally nothing happened with Nevada’s medical cannabis program until 2013, when the state legislature formed a regulatory and licensing system for cultivation operations, production facilities, and dispensaries. Since then, the state has been in the process of granting permits and allowing authorized businesses to build out cultivation and retail infrastructure in preparation for business.

Democratic congressperson Dina Titus, who was present at the grand opening of Euphoria Wellness, said:

“I think they are going to be successful, if you look around here, you see this is a very professional place, they’ve got experts, a lot of security.”

Republican senator Patricia Farley, who has helped push medical cannabis bills through the state legislature, said she is confident that the early roadblocks to safe access that have plagued patients for nearly two decades are over. She said:

“This is going to be a successful industry in Nevada that brings in good jobs.”

More dispensaries are slated to open in Las Vegas in the near future. It is anticipated that roughly 50 cannabis dispensaries will be in operation by the end of the year, in addition to cultivation and production facilities that will provide them with raw cannabis and cannabis products. Hopefully Nevada’s regulatory framework will allow enough production to satisfy demand, with the goal of increasing supply and, eventually, decreasing prices.

Photo credit: Reviewjournal.com, SFGate.com, Euphoria Wellness

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